It’s that day again, World Mental Health Day. I’ve mentioned in a previous blog how awareness days and the like can sometimes feel hollow, like a box-ticking exercise. This blog post isn’t going to just repeat that debate over the merits of these days. It may not be a solution in any sense to have awareness days but it can be a driver for genuine change and this year’s theme reflects that: mental health in an unequal world.
That the world is not an equal one is not a matter of debate and is something we all know. Some of us face many more barriers than others, whether that’s based on race, gender, sexuality, disability – the list goes on. I’m not writing anything revelatory here. Because we all experience inequality differently, we can experience efforts to bring equality into the world differently, and we can have differing viewpoints on the methods we take. (If Twitter teaches us anything, it’s that there are a number of differing viewpoints on absolutely everything.) This has come up with regards to our Dial House @Touchstone service before, which we have addressed.
While different viewpoints are valid, there is a bottom line when it comes to our core principles, as addressed on here previously. This is because we want to fight inequality in the ways that we can, such as through services like Dial House @Touchstone and the Deaf Project. LSLCS can’t bring equality to the entire world, but it can do its part in opening access to mental health support for people in Leeds by eroding some of those barriers. It’s work that I’m proud to be a part of and a team I’m honoured to work with.
To bring it to more topical matters, the world during the pandemic has really put present inequalities into sharp focus. Covid has affected different communities disproportionately. Richer countries have held out on sharing the vaccine with the less well-off countries, stifling their vaccination efforts. Protests against racism flared up last summer after the murder of George Floyd by the police. Human rights are constantly “debated” by people with no stake in the game, dehumanising so many. Inside this country we’ve just recently had the prime minister saying that misogyny is too large a problem to consider a hate crime for fear of overloading the police, while the country still reeled from the Met’s response to the wave of feeling following the sentencing of Couzens. The inequality in power structures feels like it’s evident in every news story that you read, whether it’s a country deciding to disadvantage another or an organisation being allowed to act with impunity.
Mental health and inequality are closely intertwined. The barrage of reminders of inequality can cause stress, anxiety, and fear in anyone. Rankling at injustice and unfairness hurts, while people genuinely fear for their Iives as laws are changed and decisions are taken that disadvantage people or conflicts make them homeless and countries turn them away through a fear of jobs being “stolen”. Furthermore, the inequalities in mental health services and access to support prevent people from getting the help they need, or can cause further harm. It’s not easy to cater for everyone’s needs with a sweeping policy, but all too often it can feel like people just aren’t listened to. No one expects their healthcare workers to be perfect, but being understanding, empathetic, ready to listen, willing to change and adapt – these are some minimum levels of care that feel like they’re missing. Sometimes it’s the individual, sometimes it’s something in the system itself.
What’s the solution? Predictably I don’t have an answer. If I listed my ideal healthcare system here, it would involve a completely different political and social structure in the world. And not everyone would agree with my views! I’m not about to launch into a Lulu Party Manifesto here… And for me there’s always an internal conflict between my ideal world and the world I think we have a chance of actually achieving. But I do think that the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is the right theme to look at, in this deeply unequal world. I hope some good can come of today, I hope some measure of justice can be brought into the world.
I can but hope.