Sunday, 16 October 2011

Old Feet, Insularity, and is it Time to Change

Last week was another busy week which by the time I got to Friday night left me feeling exhausted. I think I may be getting to old for the late night - early morning combination – and this week there have been a lot of both. It may also be due to having been at the V+A twice in one week – which as regular readers of this blog know, is not my favourite hotel in the world. I have also been to London to meet the Chief Nurse, Chris Beasley on a day when a stalled train outside Milton Keynes meant a 40 minute delay at the end of a very long day. Foolishly as I walked around London, I forgot I was wearing new clogs and without socks (it’s a long story) and of course ended up with feet that look as if they have been wrapped up for a week in barbed wire. But none of these experiences accounted for my sense of it being a strange week.

And this week as I was attending the opening of the Salford University International Life Centre (well done Liz!) I also read the news that the Health Professions Council's Welsh Language Scheme (an interesting notion in its own right) was approved this week. The Welsh Language Act 1993 established the principle that in the conduct of public business and administration of justice in Wales the English and Welsh languages should be treated on a basis of equality. The HPC is committed to offering services to the public in Wales in the language of their choice. Apparently, this is a great step for the Welsh language, which not so long ago was in real danger of becoming obsolete. As well as preserving the heritage of the country, this move could encourage more people to learn Welsh, and for the language to receive greater public use. It seems that learning Welsh can provide you with more than just another way to speak. I am not sure what exactly, and before all you Celtic Warriors write in, four of my five children were born in Wales and it’s a place I have some super memories of, and of course you were robbed yesterday in New Zealand

Closer to home, it was good to see the announcement that Comic Relief and the current UK Government will be joining forces to help tackle mental health stigma, Between them they have pledged funding of £20 million for Time to Change, the leading stigma and anti-discrimination campaign, run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. This is the first time that the long-standing campaign has received Government funding: up to £16 million over the next four years. It will also receive £4 million from Comic Relief. Love the coincidence of corporate colours.

This new funding will allow Time to Change to reach 29 million members of the public and increase the confidence of 100,000 people with mental health problems to challenge stigma and discrimination. So far so good you might think. Perhaps it was when the Care Services Minister Paul Burstow commented on this announcement that I again experienced a slight sense of the bizarre. He was visiting Dukes, a gym, this week, and noted how young people with low self confidence have this boosted by attending the gym and learning to box and the other people at the gym get to see that people with mental health problems are no different to the rest of us, Ouch – this is from a man who in February, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced the No Health Without Mental Health strategy.

Paul and his wife Mary, a Liberal Democrat councilor, are of course famous for their saving the Cheque Campaign. Younger readers might need to ask their parents what a cheque is. And is it just me, or does Paul bear a striking resemblance to a certain Asst Directors of Commissioning and Education working  in the former NHS Northwest? Unfortunately I couldn’t find an image to compare, but Google did offer up an image of a lovely cuddly kitten on the search page.

Finally, just in case we forget, one in four of us will suffer a mental health problem. Many individuals will experience some kind of discrimination as a result of others finding out about their mental health. However, aaccording to data from the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, there has been a 4% reduction in discrimination since the start of the campaign in 2007, which equates to 23,500 more people living lives completely free from discrimination.