August’s guest blog comes from John Macdonald, Head of Service - Mental Health with CrossReach. John shares some of his thoughts around the importance of community based support for people at the earliest point of their mental health journey. For more information on CrossReach’s Mental Health Services visit: http://www.crossreach.org.uk/mental-health
In the UK, 9 out of 10 people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination. Nearly three in four young people fear the reactions of friends when they talk about their mental health problems. If people feel they can’t talk about their mental health, they won’t be able to access the support that will help them to recover.
We need to challenge the stigma which still surrounds mental health through education. We need to help people understand what mental ill-health is, what causes it, and how people recover from it. We need people to understand that mental ill-health is mainly caused by circumstance: it’s not about what’s wrong with people, but about what has happened to them.
Perhaps stigma arises from the misconception that mental ill-health must be treated with strong medication or institutional care, an idea which removes it from our everyday experience.
In fact, while medical care can be important in a crisis, the emotional distress which affects our mental well-being can be addressed before medicine is required. Our aim should be to offer
people support as early as possible to prevent crisis situations from arising in the first place.
At CrossReach we believe that prevention should be the priority. Our services focus on social and emotional support and talking therapies which prevent hospital admission and reduce the need for
medication. This means the people we support continue to live in their communities, stay connected to their friends and family and feel they are valued and respected members of society.
Services which offer support early are more cost-effective than medical intervention, and are far less disruptive to people’s lives. However, in order to benefit, people need to
know that support is available. They also need to feel free to use support without fearing the reaction of those around them.
We all have a part to play in changing attitudes about mental health. We must understand that - to a greater or lesser extent - we all experience times of distress, and we all need support to deal with them. For some of us, support from our friends and family is what we need. For others, support from someone with professional experience and training is a better option. That is why CrossReach continue to look for opportunities to develop and expand our work supporting people – as early as possible – to recover from periods of mental ill-health.