The battle on the front line of mental health service funding

Published on: 1 September 2017

I am often asked from where my interest in mental health stems, and partly it is born out of personal experience. I had postnatal depression and, although not severe in comparison to others, it was enough to make me aware.

And when I trained as a counsellor for Relate in the mid-1990s, I worked with clients in the military for whom mental health issues were seldom discussed, not even with their GPs, such was the fear they would be medically downgraded or reported to their Chain of Command. This in turn, it was suspected, would lead to discrimination; possibly blocked promotion.

It wasn’t much easier for their partners either. Wives living perhaps in Germany or Cyprus, a long way from families in the U.K., often very young, very lonely and very frightened; as their men deployed to war zones with no certainty that they would return home well; or indeed, return home at all. PTSD is now well recognised, but 20 years ago it was not. In that respect at least, awareness of mental health issues has improved beyond measure.

But while recognising and openly discussing our mental health is one thing, funding treatment is clearly another. We all know the statistics: at least one in six of us will suffer a mental illness at some point in our lives; suicide is the biggest killer of young men under the age of 35 in the UK today; over 650,000 young and old suffer from dementia in this country, 18,000 in Norfolk alone. And so it goes on. If awareness is at last improving, funding, very sadly, is not.

While still involved in some relationship counselling, I also work with the Sue Lambert Trust in Norwich. SLT provides counselling and support for individuals who have suffered rape or sexual abuse in their childhood or beyond. Tellingly, we have a waiting list of over two years. Only this week I learnt that a vulnerable client of mine was losing both her care support workers with five days’ notice. No funds.

Another, desperate for help in battling her severe eating disorder was fast-tracked for assessment by her wonderful GP, only to be told ‘she wasn’t yet thin enough.’ The cessation of grass-roots charities through lack of funds (Sweet Arts in Norwich, Fakenham’s Wensum Group) is tragically shortsighted; only serving to increase isolation and despair, while placing existent services under unprecedented pressure.

I wish I had an answer, or at least a very large money tree. Sadly, I have neither. All I can do is to ask readers to bring this desperately sad and ultimately untenable situation to the attention of our leaders at every opportunity. Sometimes even to live requires an act of enormous courage. Or, in the words of C.S. Lewis ‘Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain. But it is more common and also harder to bear.’ The Church has largely got it. Our local and national politicians of every persuasion need to get it too.

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Priest in the night

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Churches can provide mental health friendly communities

Emilie Ruddick, mental health professional in North Norfolk explains how churches are stepping up to support their local communities.


Recovering friendly church – join the conversation

The Revd Patrick Jordan extends an invitation to join a new network in the diocese discovering how we can practically approach the issue of mental health illness and wellbeing in our local communities.


Hearing Voices – sharing experiences of struggles with mental health

Hearing Voices is a forum organised between Norwich cathedral with the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust and the Hertfordshire Partnership Foundation Trust where people can come and share their struggles with mental health.


After the fire came a gentle whisper

Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, forgive our foolish ways; these words open a hymn that begins softly but builds to the tremendous crescendo of the final verse where we confront earthquake, wind and fire only to find God in the still small voice of calm.


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