Every day seems to be something or other day, but when my ‘top tweet’ is from the United Nations no less, telling me today is ‘World Mental Health Day,’ I reckon it matters more than most.
As an ambassador for the Time To Change campaign, I will be joining staff and supporters of Mind and Rethink Mental Illness later for Parliament’s celebration of World Mental Health Day, where deputy PM Nick Clegg, who has been a strong supporter of Time to Change, will hopefully spell out the government’s continuing commitment.
Time to Change exists to try to change attitudes to mental health and mental illness so that we can break down the stigma and taboo that still attaches itself to this issue, and directly creates discrimination and violence against the mentally ill, whilst simultaneously fostering the myth that the mentally ill are more likely to be violent than the rest of the population.
If Time to Change did not exist, recent days have given us good examples of why it would need to be invented. First, Asda and Tesco selling their ‘mental patient’ halloween costumes, again making that ‘psycho killer’and ‘mad axeman’ link. Thankfully these were withdrawn from sale after a social media storm.
Then The Sun splashing with an ‘investigation’ numbering the murders committed by ‘mental patients.’ As many pointed out, there are far more murders committed by people they would presumably consider to be ‘normal.’ Then the paper made the utterly ludicrous claim that the reason I ‘whipped up a twitter storm’ (sweet that they think I still have power) was because I was trying to shackle those papers who criticise Labour leader Ed Miliband with the ‘state regulation’ they falsely claim was proposed by Lord Justice Leveson.
They might have noticed that I have been campaigning on these issues long before their phone-hacking colleagues and the Mail’s systematic and strategic mendaciousness about public life dragged British journalism to the gutter.
So back to World Mental Health Day. Part of the work we do is to visit companies and get them to commit to the Time to Change pledge as employers, and thereby commit to improving their own understanding of mental health, and their support for their staff’s mental health needs and well-being. We do this not from the touchy feely side of life, but from the hard-headed economic case that they invest so much in the training and salaries of their staff, so why would they put them at risk through risking their mental health, or write them off as so many do because of one episode of mental ill health.
In the past year or so, along with Sue Baker, Time to Change chief executive, Paul Farmer of Mind, and Paul Jenkins of Rethink Mental Illness, I reckon we have covered most of the big banks and financial services employers, and some have made real change for the better. I am particularly pleased about two major employers, one of them one of the most iconic institutions in the country, who are signing the Time to Change pledge later today. Stand by for that, and thanks to both for showing they get it.
All employers can sign up, and I urge you to visit the Time to Change website to find out more. In the meantime thanks to all who have supported the campaign so far and thanks in advance to those who will see and hear what is happening on World Mental Health Day, and join the growing campaign for better understanding, services and treatment for the mentally ill. Let’s hope Asda and Tesco are listening. Every little helps.
Ps … off to talk mental health, alcoholism and much else with Colin Murray on Talksport, 11am