Raising awareness of mental health issues is not enough

In the last few years, mental health has become a much more prominent issue. This is partly because of campaigns by mental health charities as well as high-profile individuals like Prince Harry and Professor Green, who have spoken publicly about their mental health issues. This is a good thing, as it helps to remove the stigma surrounding mental health.

The awareness movement has its pitfalls. People co-opt it to further their agendas, like increasing their fan base or getting media attention.

Logan Paul is a YouTube star who caused controversy when he posted a video showing a dead body in Aokigahara Forest in Japan, a location known for being a suicide hotspot. Paul removed the video after it was viewed over 9m timeApologized and said he had “intentioned to raise awareness about suicide and suicide prevention.” The response on Twitter shows that many people were not convinced by his explanation.

Sometimes, the awareness movement is hijacked, too, by politicians and bureaucrats. Publicly, they declare their commitment to raising mental health awareness and receive plaudits.

Last year, it was revealed that half of the Clinical Commissioning Groups, NHS bodies that commission healthcare services in their locality, do not plan to spend more on mental services this year. This is despite an increase in demand. Luciana Berger, Labour MP and a contributor to the Independent said that Theresa May claimed to be committed to improving mental health. However, her cuts have hurt mental health services.

BBC Radio 5 Live investigated a few months ago and found that out of 39 mental trusts that provided figures for their cruise teams, 27 saw their workload increase massively but without an equivalent rise in funding.

Both are better than either-or.

The stigma of mental illness is very real. It affects the lives of both those with mental health issues and their loved ones. According to research, stigma and labeling can affect people’s willingness and ability to seek treatment and disclose their mental illnesses.

The debate about mental health awareness should not obscure the very serious problems that are faced by these services. The fact that people can have mental health problems and should seek treatment is fine, but it’s not enough if the healthcare system doesn’t work properly.

Mental health services must be improved in tandem with public education about mental health issues and how to get help. Mental health is a hot topic in politics. While politicians talk about the importance of mental health and seek treatment, the future of those with mental illness hangs in the balance.

The mental health system’s leaders should not be allowed to hide behind a sometimes vague awareness debate. Mental health patients need not only public understanding and awareness but also a functioning mental healthcare service.


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