“Deserving to be honored because living with a serious mental health problem is certainly not easy”

A huge number of carers support people with long-term mental health issues. Photograph: Don McPhee for the Guardian
]1 A huge number of carers support people with long-term mental health issues. Photograph: Don McPhee for the Guardian
People living with serious mental health problems deserve New Year honours

Stressed social workers, compassionate nurses, advocates for better care, all those surviving their struggles – these are the people who deserve to be nominated •

Clare Allan
The Guardian

Tuesday 8 January 2013

There are a number of people I’d like to nominate for New Year honours. Quite a large number, actually, and I don’t know their names but perhaps if I describe some of them, you’ll know who I’m talking about.

There’s the person who has a mental health problem, a serious mental health problem that they’ve managed for many years. Perhaps they live in supported housing; perhaps a partner cares for them, or a parent; they may live alone. At times of crisis they may need to go into hospital, otherwise they get by. They may work, if they’re lucky, in mainstream employment or perhaps in a supported scheme. They may attend a day centre, or none of the above.

Whatever the case, they deserve to be honoured because living with a serious mental health problem is certainly not easy. It might be even harder than running very fast or turning around a failing school. And the people who do it can be every bit as inspiring.

I’d also like to nominate the huge number of carers who help and support those with mental health problems. They may be a relative, partner or friend; they may have mental health problems themselves (don’t think these categories are mutually exclusive). They might not describe themselves as a carer, perhaps it’s just the neighbour who popped round on Christmas Eve with a present and a home-cooked dinner. Or the cafe owner who undercharges, routinely, unobtrusively and largely unnoticed, the residents of a nearby crisis centre. All of these people deserve to be honoured because they care and because they know that caring is not just a feeling but also an action.

And I’d like to nominate professionals too: the social worker who stays late every night, struggling to manage an ever-increasing administrative burden, while still finding time to see clients regularly, reliably and for a decent period of time.

And the psychiatrist trying to provide a service, despite the ever-increasing cuts, despite the fact that mental health problems account for 23% of the disease burden in England but receive only 13% of NHS resources; trying to give her patients some consistency of care, despite constant and seemingly arbitrary changes dictated from above.

We must not forget, too, the nurse who has managed, despite difficult working conditions, the relentless persistence of mental ill health, the exhaustion, the sense of insatiable need, to keep alive the passion that brought her to nursing in the first place. The nurse who keeps caring, keeps doing her job as so many nurses do, despite the determination of the media to focus on a callous minority.

And, finally, I’d like to nominate the mental health campaigners, both charities and individuals, who are committed to improving the lives of people with mental health problems and to challenging the government over cuts to services and benefits, which are making their lives increasingly difficult.

Many of these campaigners belong to one or more of the groups already mentioned. They know from first-hand experience the impact of the changes; those that have already taken place and those that are just around the corner. They may know of someone who has killed themselves after having their benefits withdrawn. They will certainly have witnessed the stress experienced by people with mental health problems summoned to appear before a stranger, with a target sheet and no relevant training, and demonstrate why they are deserving of support. They wince daily at the government’s rhetoric, the stoking of public hostility, the talk about skivers and scroungers.

Personally, I think all of these people deserve the highest accolades our society can bestow. At the very least we should do them the honour of listening to what they have to say.

Credit: Guardian Newspaper : http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/jan/08/new-year-honours-nominations-mental-health

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