It’s good to see the Government’s positive response to the Five Year Forward View today. It’s even better to hear Theresa May talking about mental health. Everyone should be talking about it. We need to keep it high on everyone’s agenda - especially the political one.
We are especially pleased to hear the Prime Minster being clear about the need ‘to deal with mental health problems at every stage of a person’s life’. We also believe in taking a whole life approach to mental health. But we are always struck by the lack of mention of older people. Do people stop having mental health problems once they reach 65? No, of course not. For a start, you are more likely to develop a common mental health problem than you are dementia. But the symptoms of common mental illness are often seen as a natural result of growing old, loneliness and the impact of loss. We need to make sure that every stage, means every stage - for everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, gender identity, age or disability. We hope and expect the new Equality Mental Health Champion to share that view.
We welcome the focus on children and young people, the workplace and more community-based alternatives to hospital for people in crisis. We know from our own work that these are areas where improvements urgently need to be made. But we also know the difficulties of translating policy into practice. With pressures within the system and existing arrangements often resulting in support and services being made to fit rather than made to measure.
Everyone understands why services need to change but the how is more difficult. We believe in co-production, where people with lived experience and their families work together to redesign support in areas with those who commission and provide. It is not easy. But it is not impossible. And the benefits are huge - as it is not all about services supporting people to have a meaningful lives but communities as well. We all need to make sure that the voices of people with lived experience are heard - especially those who are most often left out. Or, as Jacqui Dyer, Vice Chair NHS Mental Health Task Force, has said today ‘the risk is that, by failing to tailor the approach to address these historical inequalities, some groups remain invisible and will continue to not to able to access the right support at the right time’. We all know the consequences of not providing the right support at the right time.
Services will only be transformed when they are shaped round the people they are there to serve. Co-production is a good step in that direction. We are all in this together.
Kate Linsky is the at the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi)
NDTi is an organisation that promotes equal and inclusive lives for people in their communities, particularly where ageing or disability are issues
Kate Linsky's blog is a personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the NDTi.