I have no idea how days and weeks come to be such and such
Day and such and such Week, but I do know that today sees the start of Mind
week. I know because I am on my way to the BBC to talk it up on Radio 5 (0745) and
Breakfast TV (0810) and in particular to help launch the charity’s campaign focussed
on men and mental health.

From there to the launch proper with Stephen Fry, 
Melvyn Bragg, actor Joe McGann and DJ Matt Wilkinson.  I know from my work
with Leukaemia Research that the recession is having a financial impact on
charities. And I know from my work with them and with Rethink that charities
sometimes get irritated that they can only get coverage for their cause if a
few well-known faces are attached. And even then, it is hard if the media are
obsessed with something else at the time, currently MPs’ expenses.

Anyway we
will give it a go and try to get over some of the basic messages behind Mind’s
‘Get it off your Chest’ campaign. At the launch we will be erecting a temporary
wall in central London where members of the public will be encouraged to write
something about their stresses, worries and fears.

Here is a horrible fact for
you. Suicide is the biggest killer of men aged 15-35. Here are another two
facts. Men are just as likely to suffer depression as women. But half as likely
to be diagnosed. It is the old ‘suffer in silence’ ‘stiff upper lip’ ‘big boys
don’t cry’ approach. Men are far more likely than women to see mental distress
as a sign of weakness, and so are less likely to want to talk about it.

are in no doubt it is an attitude linked directly to that suicide statistic.
Three quarters of suicides in Britain are by men. The recession makes things
worse. Two-thirds of young men who take their own lives are unemployed. One in
seven men develop depression within six months of losing a job. Only 23 per
cent of men say they would see their GP if they felt low for over a fortnight.
A third say they would be embarrassed to ask for help. 

Health Secretary
Alan Johnson has a real commitment in the area of mental health (not to mention
a clean bill of health on expenses) and the government record is a good one.
Most recently he has been encouraging PCTs to use 80 million pounds on mental
health and the recession this year. It is likely to be needed.

Mind are calling
on the government to bring in a strategy on men’s mental health, to match the
existing women’s mental health strategy. That too is needed. As I have said
here before, one in four of us will suffer a mental health problem at some time
in our lives. I know from experience how important professional help can be.
Equally I know how hard it is to admit you need it.

I hope Mind week encourages
more people who need help to ask for it, and a continuing breakdown in the
stigma and shame surrounding mental illness. # More details of Mind week,
including a new survey on some of these issues at www.mind.org.uk Media inquiries to media@mind.org.uk or 07850788514.

And as it’s Mind week, I’ve put up part one of the documentary I made with the BBC, Cracking Up. The other three parts will be coming over the coming days.