On mental health – again


On finding out that you’re not alone, and a big moan about politics too

We’re losing too many good people because of our society’s failure to help people facing mental health challenges. There seems to be a pattern here – of firms and employers losing some of their best employees, as well as the longer term impact on the health of current and former employees. Think James here, and Louise here. These are two that spring to mind – not least because they are two of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with.

‘Great minds don’t think alike’

I can’t remember which newspaper coined that as an advertising slogan, but the one thing that has struck me about a number of people I’ve met and worked with who have struggled with mental health issues is how they’ve not ‘thought like the mainstream’. Others posts in an academic field I’ve stumbled across – in part related to other barriers – that are worth reading are here and here. I’ve lost count of the number of extraordinarily talented people who are facing their own mental health issues. On some days, I describe mine as ‘the black velvet’ [of depression] to my demons of anxiety.

Being ‘burnt out’ for a long time

I almost took it for granted the rumour in economics circles that graduates who went into The City burnt out after a decade because of the workload. When you think about the amount of investment that has gone into a person’s education alone, what a terrible waste of talent. In my case, I still feel burnt out. I spent much of today in bed with a frazzled head. It’s a horrible feeling – one where I still look around and wonder when it’ll come to an end – if it’ll come to an end.

Why would employers care in what’s becoming a ‘tempocracy’?

This is what worries me about the direction of travel we seem to be going in – whether the rise of the zero hour contract to the continual cutting of terms and conditions to people in the public sector. And what for? Do we have to wait for the economic upturn to allow ‘the [very imperfect] market [not least because it’s riddled with information failures and assumptions too strong to be applicable in real life]’ to drive up terms and conditions? There’s also the false economy of those ‘self-employed’ but who would rather be in permanent work. I wonder if senior politicians and policy advisers ****really**** know how people make ends meet. Because if they did, surely we’d be hearing about some very different policies. Or is it a failure of imagination from the Whitehall policy bubble?

So much talent with so much to give – and the desire to give it too…but going to waste

That’s one of the most frustrating things. The people I follow who are struggling are just a raindrop in the ocean of what’s out there. Yet they’re not getting the support that they need. In 2012 the figure of people getting mental health treatment that needed it was as low as 25%. Which made it all the more interesting to read the headlines about the Conservatives realising what a mess the Health and Social Care Act 2012 was.

A former number 10 advisor briefed the Times that “No one apart from Lansley had a clue what he was really embarking on, certainly not the prime minister. He kept saying his grand plans had the backing of the medical establishment and we trusted him. In retrospect it was a mistake.”

You think Lansley had a clue what he was embarking on??? After all he was the one that tabled and drove through the legislation that the Electoral Commission now says charities have to record every time they use social media in a political context – see here.

But getting angry at a failed politician (he’s gone in 2015 – but coming to a corporate boardroom near you) isn’t going to change much. The more I look into these things, the more it comes back to the structure of our economy and society. I wonder whether policy-makers in Whitehall that come up with a loan/debt-related policy for people to pay for things that were previously taxpayer funded considered the mental health impact of debt. That’s before I’ve even mentioned house prices or commuting prices – the latter now so high that some employers actually offer season ticket loans to their employees.

Cuts, cuts and more cuts

This was splashed across the headline of the Cambridge News recently. It just doesn’t feel sustainable anymore. It also makes me question what the senior politicians (in a nutshell, the party leaders and the chancellor/shadow chancellors of this world) have in terms of a vision for local services – and even local government. Will there be a local council left worth standing for outside of any statutory services that the law requires local authorities to provide? Will anyone want to work to deliver such services on an underfunded shoestring budget? The mantra ‘work harder for less with less’ while costs of living remain high and get higher…exactly.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

At a recent visit to Cambridge, Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett started her speech with an apology on behalf of her generation for screwing up the planet and society. I’m halfway between her generation and the one that’s just started university. (I feel so old!) It seems strange that it’s my generation that’s moving into the frame where we have to pick up the baton – where it’ll be people and politicians my age making the decisions.

I look at the problems and the institutions that underpin them. The task ahead of turning things around is more than daunting. It frightens me.



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