9 April 2012

What Are The Mental Health Charities In UK Actually Doing For The Mentally Ill?

After conversations I have had on twitter I feel prompted to write this post about the current situation of thousands of mentally ill people in the UK. Regular readers will know I have been very vocal about my own situation and how welfare reforms are effecting me, for anyone who hasn't read it please see my old post "My Spartacus Story, How Welfare Reform will effect me" (simply click the words to open it in a new window).

For a while now I have felt that the current main 3 mental health organisations/charities have been letting down the mentally ill community by not doing enough to campaign on our behalf about welfare reforms and promoting how the mentally ill are being effected by what is happening. After discussing this issue on twitter it seems I am not alone in this opinion either, many other people particularly feel let down by the charity MIND. It seems they (and all the others I have found) do a lot to campaign to end the stigma surrounding mental health problems, which is important work that needs to be done so fair enough.

What these charities are missing however is the fact it's not just stigma that is preventing people like myself from finding jobs, it is the fact unemployment is at it's highest for years. Employers are receiving hundreds, sometimes even thousands of applications for every job they advertise. So now there is a situation where employers can cherry pick from all these hundreds of applications, they can choose the best of the best even for jobs like shelf stacker's. So what chance does a person like myself who hasn't worked for 10 years have of getting a job, no matter how low I aim despite my many qualifications in this current economic climate? Almost zero is the answer. Yet the current government is going ahead with it's plans to move all of us onto 1 year of ESA then onto job seekers and start applying for jobs, along with thousands of other job seekers all fighting for the same few jobs. The impact this will have on our mental health will be devastating, it already is, I'm back on anti-depressants on an increasing dose and losing weight already. I talk to people on various social networking sites daily who are also being devastatingly effected by changes to the benefit system, many of whom have suicide plans. The current number of people with disabilities who have already committed suicide as a result of welfare reform stands at 150 as far as I am aware.

So what are the mental health charities meant to represent us doing about it?


MIND are the charity that is also government funded that is meant to be helping us, you know the confusing advert where a guy asks his mentally ill colleague how he's feeling and you see a weird of montage of possible ways he could react that doesn't really help end stigma as it doesn't make the point clearly enough? That was made by MIND, they spent a lot of money on that advert and it doesn't really do much to help does it?
The president of MIND is Stephen Fry, before I go on I want to make it clear, I love Stephen Fry and have a lot of respect for him as a person writer actor and presenter. He also maintains a media presence despite suffering from bipolar disorder, he always appears calm and is an inspiration to us all.
Having said that I feel that he has not done much to draw attention to the suffering of the mentally ill in the UK since welfare reform began. He did some things to promote the spartacus campaign, but tweets more about petitions to save tigers and Rhinos than he does to help the mentally ill, which increasing numbers of us are getting rather annoyed about since he is the president of MIND. He doesn't even live in the UK anymore he's lived in New Zealand for years, making us feel perhaps he has become a bit out of touch with what is actually going on in the UK and should perhaps step down as the president of MIND and allow someone who does live in the UK and could more adequately represent the mentally ill in this country to take over.
So what else does MIND do for us? They run a number of campaigns to end stigma, and have put up this page "Benefits And Welfare Reform" as you can see it sounds good, but if you analyze it's just a further campaign to end stigma for mentally ill people claiming benefits. They aren't actually lobbying to halt welfare reforms which is what we really need, they consulted with people over the work capability assessment and how unfair it is to the mentally ill, but nothing has actually changed, we are still all being moved over to ESA and many people trying to make a new claim because of mental illness are being refused ESA.
It also transpired recently that MIND employed workfare people in their charity shops, people were disgusted and a high ranking guy quit over the matter.


SANE is affiliated with Ruby Wax's site "The Black Dog Tribe" and have a very nice looking website you can join if you need support with mental health issues. That's nice for those of us who have an Internet connection, but what about the thousands of mentally ill people who don't have 24 hour access to the Internet? Would be my first criticism. The campaigns they front all appear to be about ending stigma which MIND is already doing, and there's nothing I can see about welfare reform and the impact this is having on us all. It's a such a huge issue at the moment it should be in capital letters on their front page, but I can't see anything. Again, they aren't lobbying for a halt to welfare reform as they should be. There's a campaign about cuts to mental health services which needs to be campaigned about, fair enough, but nothing about welfare reform. A list of their current campaigns is here http://www.sane.org.uk/what_we_do/campaign/campaigns/


Again have a nice website you can join if you need support, nice for those of us with the Internet, I notice on the first page there's a big banner asking us to give them more money to "help them do more". And an examination of their site shows an old article about welfare reform from 2011 "welfare reform bill 2011" but little else on the matter.

I see nothing of any of these charities where I live on the Isle Of Wight, the suicide rate is higher than the rest of the south east of england so we really need them, but get nothing. If you have had a good experience with any of these charities please let me know in a comment as I'd love to hear about it. I think it is fair to say though, none of them are doing enough to help the mentally ill with the situation regarding benefit reform, they all have phone lines you can ring if you need help as you are losing it with anxiety, but that's it.

So What Are We Going To Do About It?

A number of us are starting to feel we need to form our own lobbying group as we clearly can't rely on any of these organisations to do it for us. There are a number of groups campaigning for disabled rights which I am involved in and will continue to support, but many of us feel we need one specifically for people with mental illness. We need our own voice too as well as being aligned with these other campaign groups, and are looking into what legal action we can take as I write this.

Update April 10th: I have now started a forum where we can discuss how to move on with our campaign, click here to join and discuss further what we can do to sort out the mess that welfare reform has left us all in if you are interested in helping. Or even if you just want to share your own experiences with mental health charities and services, the more information we have the more we can focus on what to do next.

I'm concerned by one of the comments left on this post already, if you commented here about your experience with MIND please create an account at the forum and tell us more, what you said is very worrying and needs addressing. I will update the forum with more information about what we are doing over next few days and hope to see you all there.


Anji said...

I live abroad and like you say I'm out of touch. Despite all of the cmapaigning and education and all that... I think it boils down to if you don't "look ill" people just don't get it.

Good luck with your campaigning and the job hunting.

Anonymous said...

Please sign and support Pat’s Petition which calls for the government to "Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families". The link is here

Anonymous said...

MIND-I was pressurised by GP to attend for sessions with MIND counsellor.It was 6 months of bullying and abuse, accused of faking autism, being sexually obsessed, a liar.I complained, to be told by MIND that the counsellor no longer works for them so it wasn't their problem.
Im not impressed and will never avail myself of MIND services again.Unfortunately there is precious little else available, mainly due to MIND allegedly providing them.

Anonymous said...

Stigma comes from the the top down - we as taxpayers are funding the government/ media to stigmatise MH benefits claimants via its welfare policies. Forget the nice little campaigns from charities who are govt funded - it is just complete rubbish!

Alluria Wrinkle Cream said...

I think it boils down to if you don't "look ill" people just don't get it.