Monday, October 09, 2006

They’re all coming out of the woodwork

What has Stephen Fry started? Or is it the fact that tomorrow is
World Mental Health Day
? Whatever it is, depression suddenly seems to be the thing. First there was Stephen and Robbie. Hot on their heels came Ulrika. On Saturday David Blunkett told the Independent of his 'madness and depression' caused by the Quinn affair

‘At one point, I really did think I was going mad. My whole world was collapsing around me. I was under the most horrendous pressure.’

Yesterday it was Alastair Campbell’s turn to talk about the devastating affect David Kelly’s death had on his mental health:

‘He talks about the "nightmare" impact of the Hutton inquiry, how the death of Dr David Kelly was his "worst day" - and how his experience of a crippling breakdown in his 20s helped him to cope. He said: "It [the Hutton saga] was one of those episodes where things spiraled out of control... I felt completely confident in relation to the facts but during the whole period it was a nightmare. And you are thinking, 'There's this guy for whom it's been such a nightmare he's killed himself'."’

He goes on to say:

‘Depression should be properly recognised as an illness and openly talked about like "a broken leg".

"There is a lot of stuff in the media which quite frankly doesn't matter a damn. But this area [mental health] does have an impact on how people are treated. The most worrying thing is the constant association between violence and mental illness. Mental illness is not just about risk or violence. It's about all of us."

Good for him, good for all of them. I have always made a point of talking about everything my friend has gone through with his schizophrenia, and I do the same with everything I have been through in the last few months. It is amazing when you do bring it out in the open how many people start to admit what they have been through.

I’ve just watched Channel 4’s Dispatches. An undercover reporter worked in several psychiatric wards over a year and came back with some shocking footage. Shocking, perhaps, to some. Sadly it was all too familiar to me, it echoed what I have seen nearly every Sunday for the last 6 years and what my friend has reported back to me. 3 people have killed themselves on his ward in the last 2 years and one of those was a nurse.

‘One patient sums up her experience by saying: "It's the best way to make someone have a nervous breakdown, being in this place." Another says: "If you're not mad when you come in, you will be by the time you leave."’

We all need to keep on talking and the Government need to keep listening. The way the mentally ill are treated in this country is something we should all be ashamed off. The patients and the staff are being let down by under funding and poor management, and there is absolutely no excuse for it.

Tomorrow is World Mental Health Day, so do your bit; listen and talk and share a thought for all those we are letting down. I am going to UCL to help them in their research. They are evaluating the NHS response after the London Bombings, it seems like a fitting thing to do.

And in the meantime here are some stats you may care to ponder:

· In the UK, there are more suicides on Mondays than on any other day of the week.

· 1 in 10 people will have some form of depression at any one time.

· By the year 2020, it is estimated that depression will be second only to heart disease as an international disease and disability burden.

· Around half of all people with depression do not go to their GP. Two-thirds of those who do see their GP present with physical ailments or sleeping problems rather than psychological symptoms.

· In 2002 / 2003, the economic and social cost of mental health problems in England stood at £77 billion.

· Among teenagers, rates of depression and anxiety have increased by 70 per cent in the past 25 years.

· 40 per cent of older people living in care homes are depressed.

· Approximately 2 million people of working age in Britain are currently taking psychiatric drugs.

· Job applicants with a diagnosis of diabetes are significantly more likely to be offered a position than applicants with a diagnosis of depression, all other factors being equal.

· One in ten children aged 5 to 15 experience clinically defined mental health problems.

More over here.