Mental Health Awareness Week in and around Cambridge


Some thoughts on last week’s social media posts, and more, from a number of local institutions on all things mental health and their Stop Suicides campaign. (Naturally, TW: Suicide).

Cambridgeshire County Council posted this:

…and Cambridge City Council had this:

…with a separate Twitter account set up for the campaign below

…with the statement below from Cllr Richard Johnson of Cambridge City Council

…and the reminder of NHS 111 option 2.

“What was achieved?”

So long as one life has been potentially saved, it was worth it. It’s one of those campaigns though where you can’t really measure or quantify the impact of (or attribute the impact to) a specific campaign.

Trying to make sense of such a campaign when in an extremely low point

…which is where I still am emotionally. (In part explained by this, because I really don’t want us to miss this incredible opportunity for local town history).

Actually, my own issues are long in the making and are very deep-rooted. No week long campaign in anything is going to make any difference. I wrote this blogpost five years ago, and in the grand scheme of things from where I’m looking locally, fuck-all has changed. Hence having a sceptical, if not cynical mindset through the lens of a depressive trough of late.

“Well, I’d ask”

“Fuck-off would you!”

“No – really, I would”

“And then what?”

“Well…we’d make sure you got the help you needed”

“If the help that I needed was available and accessible, I’d have gotten it by now. But we haven’t. Because Andrew Lansley, Jeremy Hunt and austerity.”

“Well…I’m still here to listen”

“No – you really are not – no one is, because you all have your own lives to live, jobs to do, bills to pay, and other people to look after. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver – it’ll only make it worse.”

And thus we go around in circles

Given the repeated underfunding of the NHS by Conservative and Conservative-led administrations, and having seen the impact first hand inside one of the best units in the world for its field of medicine, responsibility on that side lands with ministers. Which means that conversations on that front with me go nowhere.

As I said to a friend last week, part of my problem – and dare I say it for others, is the structure of our economy. I remember pondering in my final days at sixth form college – wondering what life would be like without having to go to this big place surrounded by lots of people – more than a few who I had known for over half of my life. Six months later and working in an office with the same 18 people day-in-day-out, I asked myself whether I could survive such an environment for my working life – to which the answer was ‘No’.

The lack of mental health provision (and other indirect support) has very real impacts on our lives

I can list in my mind the various points in my life where the lack of provision in something by an institution had a catastrophic impact on my life’s path. One of the big ones was housing – and how as students in an over-heating housing market in Brighton full of substandard housing, my old university just left us to it while the then vice-chancellor was making speeches about how tuition fees needed to rise. I’ve never forgiven Labour for what they did on higher education policy. I still haven’t now. The other two parties in England have gone on to make things even worse. So who do you trust?

I’ve lost too many friends and potential friends over my mental health issues, so actually I don’t want to risk talking about things incase I lose any more.

This is another impact of the lack of mental health services locally. For all of their adverts, my local NHS mental health trust simply referred me to a six week course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy because their organisation rules said that this was the only treatment on offer. This is also where what might be stated on an organisation’s website doesn’t match the reality out there. In particular:

  1. I don’t have a named GP despite the promise by Jeremy Hunt in 2014 here. At my surgery you see the next available one – which over the past 18 months has often been a locum/cover GP.
  2. I never had a named co-ordinator when I was with the local NHS mental health trust, even though their website says everyone treated by them does.

Again, having been inside ‘the system’ in the civil service, I throw all of my blame at ministers who brought in such disastrous policies for our health services. Most of the people on the front line are doing the best they can in the face of very poor political leadership.

“So…don’t you talk to anyone about mental health?”

I try not to – it’s easier that way. And to be honest, I’d rather not spend quality time with people talking about miserable stuff – I’d rather have us doing something that for example takes advantage of the wonderful sunshine that we’ve been having of late, as opposed to ‘meeting up for a coffee to talk things through’. I appreciate the offer & the sentiment behind it, but I’d rather go to something like a comedy, theatre or music performance/concert somewhere.

Also, the impact of mental health on my physical health means travel and transport are huge barriers – far more than perhaps people realise

The most exhausting bit of anything I do is the getting there and getting back. For whatever reason, using public transport is draining. Part of it is the sheer noise of the bus engines. (This is despite using noise-cancelling headphones). Something I hope the new Cambridge Bus Users Group will be taking on at their meeting on 02 June, amongst other things (their FB page is here).

A sense of “It’s too late to turn things around” for me

It’s been over six years since I was last able to work full time. A recovery should have happened by now – shouldn’t it? All those articles in the papers about how people ‘recover’ from mental health crises says so – doesn’t it? It’s one of the reasons a week before the mental health awareness week, a post from a similar campaign on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome struck a familiar chord.

I still have much of my formalwear from my dancing days – though I fear the trousers no longer fit. I tried a pair that I thought would fit but they felt unfamiliarly tight around my waist. 15 years ago I took part in a ballroom dance event at the London Southbank Centre that lasted from about lunchtime through to very late in the evening – a good 12 hours. It felt like we were all dancing for most of that time give or take an outdoor picnic. I ended up with bruised feet for the next two days. I can’t see myself ever matching the levels of fitness I had in my early-mid 20s. (Though if anyone’s interested in the Madingley Hall Summer Ball, grab me).




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