We may be talking more—but we still shy away from facing the uncomfortable, systemic issues. Until that changes, care won’t improveby Mark Brown / March 7, 2018 / Leave a comment
For most of its medicalised history, mental illness has been and out of sight and out of mind problem, its scandals far from public concern. Current events suggest that not much has changed. On Monday, the Guardian revealed that coroners reports published between 2012 and the beginning of 2018 show that at least 271 mental health patients have died due to failings in NHS mental health care.
These failing included inadequate supervision of someone who was a clear suicide risk; NHS staff ignoring families’ fears that their loved one would take their own life; mistakes with the patient’s medication; and failing “to properly assess the risk that the patient would take their own life.”
Forty five of the cases involved people being discharged too soon or with inadequate care, forty one treatment being delayed, and seventy two poor or inappropriate care.
The response? Despite the Guardian’s best efforts, there have been no mass demonstrations, burning police cars and emergency Whitehall meetings, no barricades built.
The period covered by the Guardian’s investigation covers the single largest expansion in public debate and discussion about mental health the UK has ever seen, begun by the funding of national anti-stigma campaign Time to Change in 2009.
Why, if we are talking about mental health more than ever, do avoidable tragedies still occur? One problem is that, while discussion of mental health has become louder and broader, it is the areas that are most relatable for the general public where that discussion has pooled; in issues of wellbeing and social acceptance, not in the realities of unmet need and of more serious, life-changing, chronic experiences.
In her speech to the Conservative Party Conference in 2017, Theresa May announced an independent review into the Mental Health Act. Yet her speech focussed upon the risk of discrimination that might arise in the use of the powers of the act to detain people against their will—rather than focusing upon any rights to treatment people might have. Like so many campaigns, she focussed on what was relatable, rather than the uncomfortable reality of people’s needs.
Earlier, in 2013, The World Health Organisation (WHO) published “Investing in mental health: Evidence…