The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day, which is today, set by the World Federation for Mental Health, is ‘Mental health in an unequal world’. My God, I’ve been banging on about this for years. Here, I quote from the Independent:
Joining up these conversations makes sense, as inequality and mental health are issues that continuously overlap, through society and through the course of our individual lives.
Black people are four times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act than white people, NHS figures show. One in eight LBGT people have experienced some form of unequal treatment from healthcare staff, Stonewall charity points out.
Unemployment lower income and disability are among a number of inequality-linked factors which correlate with a higher chance of experiencing mental health problems like depression, a recent report from the Office for National Statistics shows.
Yes to all that stuff, too. And this is all about access and for many people the absence of access.
My experience of mental health treatment is that there isn’t much of it. Inequality does mean some people suffer more than others but it also means some people can’t get access to treatment because they can’t afford it.
Say I want more therapy. I go on a waiting list with the NHS and if I am lucky I will get six appointments via Zoom! The therapist will likely have no access to my long history of illness and I know that after six weeks I may feel less ill, but only a bit less. However, if I have plenty of money, I can buy therapy with a medic with ‘Mr’ before his name. I don’t even get to see someone called Dr. If I have a meltdown, I have to deal with it myself in both the short and long term. As I have no qualifications in treating mental illness, I cannot cure myself. If I am, say a top TV celebrity, I can just check in to some kind of rehab for as long as I want. That is not, I accept, what the inequality argument is all about but it’s the same thing.
Not only are poorer people and minorities, who are often the same people, more likely to get ill, they are less likely to get help.
Conveniently for our government, World Mental Health Day falls on a warm and sunny Sunday so. hardly anyone will notice, unless some kind soul advertises it on social media. I welcome the annual acknowledgement of poor mental health but don’t worry: tomorrow is another day. And after midnight, we can just forget about it again.