It's estimated 1 in 6 adults in the UK will suffer a mental health problem, but aren't always aware. Add to that the stigma connected with mental health issues and it's no wonder people don't come forwards for help. I've just met a local group who had a 1000 conversations with library users in a bid to change that and was invited to give awards to volunteers from the group, the 3Rs - which stands for Reading Reconnecting and Reducing Stigma
In all around 40 volunteers took part. All had mental health issues themselves and the original idea was they would talk to people in local libraries to try and reduce the stigma and prejudice against mental health problems. What they found was a whole new group of people where early intervention could make a huge difference to their lives and their mental wellbeing.
For the volunteers like Laura, Terry, Anastacia and Maxine, it was tough, getting together the confidence to approach people. Learning how to strike up a meaningful conversation and then encouraging people to speak about themselves. They certainly deserved their awards.
Although the project funding has finished the 3R's are now looking to start a new scheme offering help and early intervention. The funding was just £17,000 pounds – peanuts in comparison with the potential cost of admitting someone to hospital.
It's clear dealing with mental health is a complex process. If people like the 3rs volunteers can connect with people early though, everyone benefits and can only help relieve the pressure on our overstretched NHS mental health services. I’m pleased to say that a future Labour government is already committed to vastly improving our mental health care system by:
• employing tens of thousands more NHS medical staff and care/support workers,
• focusing spending on early intervention in mental health problems (and training teachers to be able to recognise problems at school)
• establishing a new right for anyone who needs it to obtain psychological therapies via their GP
• working to end the situation where, at the moment ,the mental healthcare system has to cope with over 20% of the country’s ill health but has to make do with around only 11% of health funding
In future the work of 3Rs could make a real difference. Having met the people involved I'm confident, that if they can raise the funding they need it will be a great success.