Friday 13 December 2013

Annus Mirabilis

What a tenth anniversary year it has been!

Our Lights! Camera! ACTION! campaign galvanised thousands of people with a serious mental illness and their families this summer.

Together they resolved to get the best out of mental health legislation and policy now and in the coming years, working individually to get a great Care and Treatment Plan - see our Guide here - and collectively to encourage politicians and mental health services to deliver their side of the bargain - see the final report of the campaign here, an important document which will resonate into next year as we continue the push for service improvements.

Meanwhile we have engaged strongly with colleagues in England to address the widespread concern about changes to benefits.

This, candidly, remains an uphill struggle not only because it is an undevolved matter on which we can bring to bear less weight than on Welsh affairs but also because there is an inexorability about benefit reform on which it is hard to get traction. Much of the limited success to date has relied on legal challenge - look back through Hafal's Facebook platform to see news on this.

And what about next year?

Two big things jump out from all the engagement (and not just through this year's campaign) with Hafal's Members and the wider community of people with a mental illness and their families, namely...

(i) Physical health - specifically exercise, diet and nutrition, and access to physical health services. Key matters on which we can do a lot to help people very practically and have some fun too, though against a background of people with a serious mental illness dying perhaps 20 years younger (the statistics vary but, appallingly, it is of this sort of order).

(ii) Treatments for serious mental illness - both medical treatment (choice, side affects, management issues, dosage, etc) and psychological treatments (sheer availability of anything but also choice, timeliness, the range between light treatment of symptoms and in-depth psychotherapy, etc).

I am really pleased to report that we have agreed with campaign partners the Mental Health Foundation and Bipolar UK that we will address both these matters vigorously next year in two distinct but related campaigns.

The two campaigns will neatly cover two crucial "life areas" out of the eight areas in the Care and Treatment Plan - and of course we will through both campaigns sustain pressure to progress the wider, holistic, and systematic approach to recovery which Hafal's Members invented and campaigned so hard to enshrine in the present law.

I now have a good long break over Christmas during which I will probably refrain from writing about mental health matters, at least directly. There are those who think almost everything is about mental health and, more worryingly, that mental health services have lots of useful things to say about our "well-being". But nobody who has read this blog will be surprised when I say I am not one of those people.


Recommended Christmas reading: Brian Sewell's two volume autobiography now in paperback (links here and here), outrageous, fearless and everybody's favourite art critic since a self-regarding posse of thirty-five art establishment worthies wrote to complain about him in 1994. This famously back-fired as Sewell mercilessly rounded on them and got a lot of support from people fed up with all the nonsense
about "conceptual" art which continues to insult our intelligence to this day.

Sewell writes elegantly and with erudition but doesn't mince his words when simple language is all that is required. He surely spoke for the nation when he described Damien Hirst's oeuvre as "f**king dreadful".

Funny and moving but not for the faint-hearted as he writes graphically about his numberless homosexual encounters and an unsettling one with a voyeuristic Salvador Dali.

Postscript 2:

"Annus mirabilis"? Literally a "wonderful year" but well known as an amusing poem by Philip Larkin, the best 20c. English poet except perhaps Thomas Hardy (widely agreed) - and, a curiosity, it is read by the best 20c. English novelist (well, I think so) Anthony Burgess here.