In our celebrity-ridden culture, stars of stage, screen, and television are happy to talk, albeit glibly, about their struggles with mental health.
But it was the Belfast-born writer CS Lewis who most eloquently described the problem society had, and to this day, has with mental illness.
“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also harder to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: It is easier to say ‘my tooth is aching’ than to say ‘my heart is broken’.”
While talk about mental illness gets a more generous hearing now than it did in CS Lewis’s day, it remains for many an embarrassing topic, wrapped in shame and taboo. That helps to explain the alarming facts highlighted today in the special report on the provision of mental health services: Since 2009, a 25% increase in common mental health illnesses, including depression; as of April this year, 2,470 patients waiting to be seen by child and adolescent services, with 10% in the queue longer than a year, children being admitted to adult care; and 700 psychiatric nursing vacancies.
The new but overdue government strategy — Sharing the Vision: a Mental Health Policy for Everyone — to be unveiled next week, is promised as an update of the 2006 blueprint, A Vision for Change. It will be welcomed if it does not turn out to be simply another grandly-titled, online, tickbox exercise, by which digital psychiatry via Zoom is offered as an alternative to face-to-face engagement.