Martin Luther King: “We are determined… to work and fight until justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
The Guardian’s research highlights that suicide remains as the leading cause of death in the UK between the ages of 20 and 34.
I believe that the two most important places to campaign for a better understanding of mental health is schools and the workplace. A recent BBC report presents research suggesting that half of mental health problems start before the age of 15. In some places in the UK, a child can wait more than 18 weeks to see a counsellor. For a young person experiencing mental health difficulties this is a lifetime. Mental health support should be available for people as and when they need it. This should be a basic requirement of a righteous society that seeks to care for people.
According to Mental Health First Aid England, mental health issues account for almost 70 million days off work per year, the most of any condition. It is so prevalent, yet still so very misunderstood. I hear so many stories of people discriminated against in the workplace because of mental health.
So what can Sheffield Flourish do? At the moment Flourish is laying a foundation, demonstrating that with the correct care, creativity and ambition, it is possible to support people with mental health problems into building better lives for themselves. Taking on the Sheffield Mental Health Guide is a new dimension, actively supporting people in their first steps into mental health services and support groups. The combination of these two roles should provide a very thorough picture of mental health provision in Sheffield.
This could then be used to go into schools and workplaces to deliver guided workshops on various mental health issues, really flying the flag for mental health justice, and helping to bring forth a culture where it is as easy for people to talk about their mental health as it is their physical health.
A few years ago I spoke about mental health to a class of sixth form students at a Sheffield school. The students were so engaged that when class ended and they were free to go, about seven of them stayed behind to talk for a further half an hour during their break. This left a strong impression on me that school students are really open to talking and learning about mental health. Of those who stayed behind, several were keen to talk about their own experiences. It was very moving.
Government funding for mental health provision in schools is being reduced. Flourish needs to move into this area, and let school students know that their mental health concerns are taken seriously, that there are people who care, and that there are opportunities available for them to receive the support they deserve. Going into schools is also a great way to discover what young people are looking for in terms of mental health support, and how Flourish can help to facilitate this.
Similarly, in the workplace a lot of work needs to be done to inform and inspire. Such events offer solidarity with those experiencing difficulties at work, and let employers know that these issues are being taken seriously. It helps to change the perception of mental health in the workplace, and drive up standards. Employers will also learn how much they can gain, and not just financially, by taking care of staff members experiencing mental health difficulties.
I think this is a natural way in which Flourish can evolve, expand and continue the good work they are doing helping to make Sheffield more mental health friendly.
Picture courtesy of www.tremplin-belgium.com