YESTERDAY morning Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, launched the Government’s new action plan on mental health.
Ambitiously entitled Closing The Gap, this document sets out a series of welcome targets that if achieved will vastly improve the lives of people living with mental illness and poor mental wellbeing.
But I say “if” quite deliberately. This is not done through cynicism or malice but through experience and the weight of history that will fight against the fundamental change we need to make this shift in thinking a reality.
The Retreat has been delivering mental health services for more than 200 years and knows how difficult such fundamental change can be.
Some of Mr Clegg’s pledges will surprise many people. Most people will already assume mental health is treated like physical health and that if you need care, and in particular urgent care, it is available consistently and to a high quality. Sadly that is not the case.
For these changes to work, we need a seismic shift in the way we think about illness, allocate resources and understand mental wellbeing.
Over many years in mental health, I have seen too many people let down by the system, had their wishes ignored and been left to deteriorate without the help they need. If the same were true in cancer, heart disease or almost any other physical condition there would be an outcry.
The only way we can change this is to take the party politics out of the debate and for all providers – mental, physical, voluntary and private sector – to realign and change their model of delivery.
I look forward to seeing how local authorities and clinical commissioning groups respond to yesterday’s news.
David Smith, Director of development, The Retreat, Heslington Road, York.