Look At It This Way - August 15, 2014

Brett Robertshaw

Brett Robertshaw

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Just the way we are needs to change.

Mental illness isn’t emotive – until you read of a 21-year-old man’s suicide because he can’t cope. And that should be a wake-up call to the rest of us.

It is two years since the Government talked of “no health without mental health.”

We’re still waiting for mental illness to get the 
attention and funding it 
deserves.

We need faster referrals from GPs through to specialists, better diagnostic, intervention, treatment, support and social options.

We need investment on a par with that accorded to 
cancer and heart disease.

We need more than a sticking plaster on a gunshot wound.

Take dementia, a ticking mental health timebomb which costs the UK more than £23bn a year – more than the combined cost of cancer, heart disease and stroke.

UK funding of dementia research amounts to little more than 11 per cent of the total UK spend on cancer research. That’s pathetic in every sense.

I’m not suggesting we rob one pot to pay another but simply look at the facts and stats and change the 
mindset.

Mental illness isn’t marketable. It’s hard to go on the knock raising funds to help people many would cross the road to avoid on a bad day.

Yet there’s a fundamental lack of fairness that needs addressing.

Mental illness accounts for more than 20 per cent of the NHS’s economic “burden” of disease yet it gets only 10 per cent of the spend.

This week we had our ears, eyes, and mind opened to the suffering of Brett Robertshaw, a gifted musician who killed himself at 21 because his mind was “torturing” him.

He could see no way out.

His aunt, who found his body, offered a moving 
insight into Brett’s battle with depression, spoke of the stigma, the emotional fallout for the family, and need for earlier help.

The wait for counselling had worried Brett. “These things take so long.”

In a blog published posthumously he wrote: 
“Nobody is to blame for this, except myself. My inability to cope with things is the killer here.”

But that inability to cope was not down to failure on Brett’s part.

It’s society’s failure, our collective lack of responsibility.

The failure is in how we respond to people with 
behavioural or psychological problems or the kind of flawed genius (of Robin Williams) which comes at such a cost deep within.

The failure is in our 
inability to cope.

I’m far more tempted to judge a nation by its suicide rate – rather than by any 
other public health indicators or measures.

Why should stigma be associated to mental illness when mental disorders 
affect one in four of us?

Three hundred thousand people in the North West have been diagnosed with a mental health condition.

That’s no indicator of the scale of the problem – or what’s to come as other issues take their toll locally.

It’s no measure of the anguish I witnessed while attending a dementia 
awareness course for carers this month – or while listening to youngsters talk of looking after parents with mental health problems.

Thousands more have yet to be diagnosed. Thousands more never will be.

They will live hidden in plain sight known only to family and friends. Some, like Brett, will initially put it down to “just the way I am.”

Well, just the way we are needs to change...

We’re a nation in collective denial of one of the most indiscriminate threats – and potentially destructive forces – in our midst. The sooner we support MIND, the mental health charity, and start running those 5ks for schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disease and borderline personality disorders the sooner we can all start to feel better – as a society. Even if the T-shirts don’t look as cool as those sported at some of the higher profile charity races.

And nothing makes more sense than to get behind MIND’s campaign in the run up to the General Election. The charity’s manifesto ‘Take action for better mental health’ 
is a call to politicians and policy makers to make good on that pledge of two years ago and remember there really is no health without mental health.

Spend less in the shops but more in the car park

I like this discount supermarket near Cleveleys. And I also like this discount supermarket in Cleveleys.

But I don’t like Aldi’s car park policy – even though I understand the pressures on parking in the busy retail town.

You could say it’s just not my cup of tea.

Not that I like tea. I like red wine. Not gin.

Like brands, only cheaper? Not when it could end up costing me dear to park there – as several old dears have already found out.

If I forget to enter my 
registration number in the vehicle logging machine near the checkout upon leaving – or get mixed up as I often do since changing cars I could face a fine... as several pensioners have found to their cost.

And I really don’t like that.