Dear David Cameron,
I have a message for you now that you have been re-elected as prime minister.
I know that you are only a human being just like I am and I hope that my words might reach you and make a difference. A huge part of your focus is on money and the economy and I understand how important this is, the recession was devastating. However, there is something much more important than money and that is human suffering. We are so fortunate to live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and whilst not all human suffering is preventable, a lot of suffering is or it can at least be eased.
Making life harder for the less fortunate isn’t fair. You are lucky enough to never know what it’s like to take your life because of the stress of losing your beloved home over the bedroom tax. You have probably never been a young person who is desperate to work but stuck on job seeker’s allowance and unable to afford an outfit for job interviews because JSA barely covers the rent. You don’t realise how scary it is to hear threats of housing benefit being taken away from 18-24 year olds when there are already young people sleeping on the streets and living in tents. These aren’t ‘scumbags’, they are talented young people who give people goosebumps when they sing or aspire to be support workers and help others.
This brings me on to your manifesto and what you said about mental health. You said that you would increase funding for mental health and I really hope that you stick to your word. Having good quality mental health care should not be a luxury. The brain is an organ and it should be treated on par with physical health. Mental health services can barely function on the funding that they currently had. Funding is essential.
You said that you would enforce new access and waiting times for mental health services and I really hope that you stick to your word here. Early intervention is key because the longer an illness goes on, the lengthier the recovery. Some non-urgent cases are waiting up to two years for treatment and by the time they get seen they have then become an urgent case. The difficulty in accessing services means that people are having to fight to get help at a point where they are exhausted and can barely get out of bed. That is a flawed system.
You said that you will ensure proper provision of health and community-based places of safety for those experiencing a mental health crisis. I cannot stress how important this is. At the age of 19 I was put in a police cell during a mental health crisis. I was very quiet and shy and suffering with anorexia and depression. I wanted to die and I needed to be somewhere safe and peaceful, instead I was put in custody on a Friday night. I have come close to being put in a cell again because of a similar situation where all the hospitals and Section 136 suites were full and there was nowhere left to go. When someone is poorly and a law-abiding citizen, ending up in a cell should not be a fear or worry. That night will stay with me forever, your government let me down.
You said that you would review how to best support those with long-term but treatable conditions back into work and that people who might benefit from treatment should get the medical help they need to get them back into work. If these people refuse a recommended treatment then you will review whether benefits should be reduced. This is unfair. I would say that the majority of people, including me, do not want to be too unwell to work and really work hard on recovery because being ill is not pleasant. I want to work, I want to make a huge difference to society and I will. I am determined. Supporting those with mental health problems in work is so important and I really hope that this happens. However, threatening to cut benefits if people refuse a treatment is not okay. It isn’t that black and white. Someone may refuse a treatment because they are too poorly to accept the help. If you are feeling hopeless, suicidal and being absolutely crushed by depression and you decline a treatment then that is okay, it may take medication and time for the person to feel able to accept a therapy. If you are struggling with anxiety and socially isolated then group therapy may be incredibly scary to you. If you force treatments upon people by threatening their income then you are wasting money. If someone doesn’t want to be in a treatment then they won’t work with it and it won’t help them, someone who is ready to accept that treatment will probably be sat on a waiting list behind all the people who have been forced there through threatening to cut benefits. You cannot use money to threaten and blackmail people. Benefits barely get people by as it is. If you are threatening someone’s benefits then you are threatening their home, their car, their dependents, their food, their prescriptions. Imagine that you are feeling deeply suicidal and that happens? How would you feel Mr Cameron if someone took their life because of your policies? If someone lost their mother or daughter or sister and it was your parties fault? Please don’t let that be the case. Please don’t put yourself in that position.
Finally, you say that you will support those with mental health problems who are claiming out-of-work benefits. Please make sure you are supporting those with mental health problems and not using them to support your party or the economy. People will respect you more if you show compassion, care and understanding.
Good luck with the next 5 years and if you ever want to learn more about mental health then my kettle is always on.