Why Cameron’s “mental health revolution” isn’t a revolution at all

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The Oxford Dictionary defines the meaning of revolution as:

“A dramatic and wide-reaching change in conditions, attitudes, or operation”

In early January, 2016, David Cameron announced he would be investing a further £1bn into mental health services, specifically targeting anorexic teenagers and mothers suffering with postnatal depression. To those who aren’t too familiar with mental health issues, or how the NHS treats them, this may sound like a promising solution. Sorry to disappoint you, but I highly doubt this money will make the slightest of differences. Why? Because lack of funding is only a part of the issue when it comes to how the NHS battles mental illness. The biggest issue is how our services are treating mental health patients.

Like the UK’s education and physical health systems, the mental health system is outdated. Many of the contributing pillars which support all these systems have remained unaltered for years, and are still built around the ideas of dusty politicians from decades ago.

One example of these outdated methods is shown in the general rigidness of treatment under the NHS. I have personal experience of this. When I was about sixteen, I was refered to the NHS mental health branch named: CAHMS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). After meeting a couple of times with a clinical psychologist, it was very much agreed that I should be as far away from school as legally possible, whenever I can. For this to be strictly legal, I was signed up for the CAHMS school, a rather small and homely room, where I received maths lessons twice a week, supervised by two very nice teachers.

However, there was a catch. For the other three days of the school week I had to return to my normal school, an environment which literally made me feel ill. Not only this, but I also had to continue receiving counselling sessions and was told that once the course of five sessions was up, I could well have to leave the CAHMS school.

Luckily for me my psychologist was very nice and understanding and somehow she was able to plan out my sessions so our final meeting would just fall before the end of the final term, from then on I never had to return to full-time education. But I can’t help but imagine that some may not have been as lucky as me. Somewhere out there may be a young soul who ran away, or even committed suicide because they just couldn’t bear returning back to school, or whichever environment fills them with the dread I once felt.

The actor and comedian Robin Williams also would have agreed with me on his subject. He often spoke about a burning desire to change attitudes towards treating health, which was often expressed in his films (especially “Patch Adams”, the fictional story of a revolutionary doctor). Like Robin and his character Patch, I also believe there should be more heartfelt consideration and flexibility when treating ill patients (especially those with mental health issues), rather than abiding by current robotic rules and treatments. Every individual is different, and this is so often proven in the recovery of patients, and because of this, each patient should be treated with flexibility and support to their specific needs and desires.

So then, Mr.Cameron – and the rest of our politicians for that matter – throwing money at an already failing system is not a “revolution”. If anything, it is quite the opposite. It is time for parliament to reassess our health and education systems. Only by doing this will we make progress in the battle against mental illness.

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About Mitchell Foyle-York 2 Articles
Mitchell is a freelance journalist, mental health activist, aspiring author and former political researcher (specialising in economics and sociology).

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