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Everybody is Talking - But is Everyone Qualified to Listen?

Updated: Mar 13, 2020

As a long term service user I was extremely humbled and touched by recent campaigns on national television, radio and in the press that promoted the idea that it was 'good to talk' about mental health within the family, down the pub or with work colleagues. During prime- time television on a Saturday evening ITV stopped BGT for one minute and paved the way for conversations to start across front rooms. It was by far a stunning tribute to mental health and clearly demonstrates that the subject of mental health is truly taking shape and its high on the public radar.

Mental Health is though extremely complex, it can be a very frightening experience and subject let alone the symptoms, issues, diagnosis, prognosis, availability of treatments and services are extremely challenging. Use the word 'schizophrenia' and for all the wrong reasons most people run a mile.

With the mental health system in crisis, and I use that word 'crisis' with real meaning and passion solely because if you cannot provide the services and treatments, the right amount of beds, professionals, extreme waiting lists that in my view amount to psychological abuse and ill treatment then 'crisis' seems dignified. It's fantastic getting people to talk and raising publicity about mental health, truly awesome, but a danger, warning sign exists. Are we as a nation putting the onus of responsibility onto friends, family, loved ones, work colleagues because the system is in meltdown. The complex issues that surround mental health require 24/7 professional services from trained personnel.

I want to put forward a scenario to support my article, the family are all around the table having an evening meal when the father, mother or one of the children says, "I've been thinking of taking my own life" that bombshell, that very statement has far and wide reaching consequences that will last this family a life time. Yes, a risk has now been identified, yes, you can leap to the phones and call Samaritans, call crisis lines, GP's and Mental Health Services. But the family are in a state of shock, the normal 'irrational response' is one of guilt, blame, "oh that's great, how will your mother cope" "or if you kill yourself, whose paying the mortgage and bills" it's great to talk and be open about your feelings but talking to untrained professionals has its risk.

But with a system already in crisis and more people talking and opening up a new danger exists, if the system cannot cope now what do you do with tens of thousands of new identified cases. There is truly a place in a modern and free society to openly talk to friends and family especially if you are struggling with mental health, but as a country, society, we must not push far reaching responsibilities onto people who are not professionally trained in complex matters because mental health services under financed, under staffed, under paid and plays second fiddle to physical treatments and services.

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