Next time you come across something that fires your emotional juices and drives you to blog with passion, drop everything and go for it. Your enthusiasm will shine through, winning the hearts and minds of the people who read it.
Here’s a story about a subject close to my heart.
Out in the garden for a late lunch, reading this week’s New Scientist, I found an inspirational interview with two of my heroes, Richard Layard and David Clark. They’ve campaigned tirelessly for better mental healthcare in Britain, and their efforts are transforming lives. Not only that, the economic argument for mental healthcare for everyone, in the same way the NHS cares for our bodies, is flawless.
Why do I care?
Like one in five Brits, I’ve wrestled with mental health problems. Nothing dramatic, just a backlog of anxiety related stuff that made life, work and relationships uncomfortable.
I was fortunate. I could afford private therapy and after a few false starts found an empathic, supportive cognitive behavioural therapist. Ten years down the line, life’s still a peach.
CBT helped me understand and ditch unhelpful emotional thoughts, behaviours and responses. Much more than that, it made me happy. Really happy. And it gave me the tools I needed to carry on the good work.
Without the therapist’s help I’d have been much less functional, less able, less creative, less confident, less economically productive. Research proves I’d be less physically healthy too, more of a burden on the NHS.
The money bit – mental illness damages economies
As the interview with Layard and Clark reveals, mental illness accounts for 38% of all illnesses in the western world, even more for people of working age. It costs rich nations like Britain about 8% of GDP, in our case almost £130 billion a year. But in most wealthy countries mental health care gets less than 10% of the healthcare budget.
Layard, an economist, was shocked and outraged when he found out that, “there are people who have problems, here and now, who could be treated and are not being treated.” Together with psychologist Clark, he decided to change things.
CBT is the backbone of the resulting new initiative, Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT). CBT is recommended by NICE, along with counselling and couples therapy, and there’s a huge tranche of evidence proving it works. But as David Clark says in the interview, it isn’t the only show in town. Plenty more proven, robust therapies are becoming available.
All this is fantastic news for anyone who struggles with mental health issues, major and minor. It’s good news for the economy too. Fewer sick days, better productivity, happier people who are physically healthier, better equipped to play a part in their own and everyone else’s destiny. I wonder how much of that £130 billion a year we could claw back through healing what is often relatively undramatic, everyday hang-ups?
Revolutionary data informs the future
In the last three months around 85,000 British people completed a course of treatment with IAPT. The resulting outcome data is revolutionary too, the first time such data has ever been collected. It means the people in charge can finally set mental health goals based on real outcomes, on whether people actually get better. But there’s a down side. NHS treatments still don’t include mental health therapies to NICE guidelines.
Making change happen
Layard and Clark feel the only way to move forward is to tackle the social stigma behind mental health and get an effective public lobby going. I’d like to play a part. I’m not ashamed to say that therapy saved my metaphorical life, if that doesn’t sound too dramatic. Actually, I don’t care if it sounds melodramatic. It changed everything. We all deserve help when we crash and burn. And the numbers seem to make economic sense.
What about you? Anything to add?