Yesterday was World Mental Health Day … I know, I know, every day seems to be something or other day, and nobody is ever quite sure what you’re meant to do with them, or who decides which day is which … but they do provide an opportunity for causes and ideas not always in the mainstream to get a little closer to it, if only for a day.
Mental health ought to be as mainstream as anything else in our lives. We all have it, like we all have physical health. But we are less open about it than we are about our physical health, and the stigma and taboo surrounding mental illness, whilst eroding somewhat, remain, and have a profound impact on people’s expectations and opportunities.
So what did you do on World Mental Health Day? Well, I tweeted a few tweets and I read the responses … which included warnings of direct threats to services, two of them very close to where I live.
The coalition government is preparing to announce huge cuts on October 20, which probably won’t be quite as bad as they are saying, but which will be bad nonetheless. Everyone will be arguing their own corner for their own services, their own benefits and so forth. But I hope that whether people have good or bad mental health, we make sure that mental health services do not work their way to the top of the culling tree. I fear they will, and we have to be ready to campaign intelligently and effectively to protect them. I certainly intend to be part of those campaigns.
Ps on an unrelated matter, namely the short speech one of my ‘challenging’ students made to a thousand people at the Cheltenham Festival on Saturday, the subject of yesterday’s blog. I wanted to share with you the email which just came to my website from someone called Justin, who was in the audience.
Mr Campbell, I attended your session with Libby Purves in Cheltenham at the weekend and spoke briefly with you at the book signing afterwards. I thought that your student’s bravery to take the mic at the event was great. There was a beautiful awkwardness as the audience was troubled by a passionate, unpleasant and radical political opinion. Sadly I think that most missed the point – you were introducing us to a success. Here was someone able to think and then articulate a view, where they would not have been able to (or perhaps permitted to) before. I think it really showed her trust in you and the new trust she has in her own voice. We, the audience, should all remember our clumsy grappling with economic, political and other debates in our youth and the luxury of the simplicity of our opinions. It was not really her message that we were privileged to hear … but that we were part of her awakening.
But, the young girl may well be on the right track. The Guardian Weekly front page leads with this story this week. Please pass on the link to Harlem and make sure she reads to the last sentence.
PS It would be good to also pass it on to middle-aged, employed man with his ‘Get a job!’ heckle.
Thanks to Justin, and to the others who made similar comments at the book-signing, and thanks to Harlem for having the guts to do it. By the time she left for home, she was talking about wanting to get into politics, and asking me to do the same.