Recent months have seen a much-needed rise in the profile of mental health – in the media, politically, in the medical profession and in the consciousness of ordinary people. Suddenly there is something virtually every day which highlights not a new situation – there have always been people suffering from mental health conditions – but the fact that mental health cannot and should not be ignored and continue to be the taboo subject it has been for so long. Even the younger Royals have got in on the act with their valuable support of high profile campaigns such as Heads Together and speaking openly and candidly about their own mental health challenges. Politicians too have suddenly woken up to the fact that mental health is and will continue to be a growing concern to a wider section of the population.
Now that finally mental health is slowly but surely gaining the attention it deserves, what now? It’s all very well to raise awareness of this issue, but without any long-term plans to tackle it or enough specialists to help those suffering from mental health conditions, little progress will be made in helping those people recover.
As has been frequently highlighted, mental health and physical health are inextricably linked. If one suffers, chances are the other will suffer too. This is why it is so important that the two are treated as one – if not by one person or in one place, then certainly by professionals who talk and work together to achieve the best physical and mental outcome for the patient.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has been successful in achieving its target of 45% of Junior Doctors completing a foundation course in psychiatry as part of their medical studies. Although this is progress – it means that future GPs may be more aware of mental health conditions – it does not necessarily mean that we will then have the solution to all our mental health problems.
Herein lies an opportunity for up and coming medical professionals. The greater the awareness of mental health conditions, the greater the need for mental health professionals such as mental health nurses, psychologists and of course psychiatrists, to treat them. The hope is that with the increase in the number of medical training places, there will also be an increase in the number of places in those areas where the NHS and the general public really need and want them. And mental health is undoubtedly one of these areas.
If we manage to achieve these things, then we can be well on the way to ensuring that good mental health becomes something which everyone can expect and enjoy.