Just watched this brilliantly produced video by ‘Award losing journalist, film-maker and radio presenter/producer’ James Keating and story teller Rhona Tarrant looking at some of the challenges of mental health in Ireland and I think it’s very neatly captured a lot of the key issues that we face today with some interesting quotes that really get you thinking:
“I think, and this is probably a personal view, that it comes from ignorance and fear and a misunderstanding of mental health problems and there has been categorised over the years a fear of it you can’t see it like a broken arm and therefore you’re not really sure how it works or how what it means… …in some ways it’s like coming out of the closet, people with mental health problems need to come out of the closet like the gay movement did… …god dam it people with mental health problems are living among us and you know it could be me or you tomorrow” Pippa Woolnough, Communications Officer, Amnesty Ireland.
I think it’s about time that we go a lot further than this and start communicating a more mature understanding eg. that mental health problems are not encountered by people who are “living among us” or that they are something that “could be me or you tomorrow“. Mental Health problems go hand in hand with living a normal life in which you have emotions and care for others (probably why nurses report depressive symptom rates that are twice that of the general population)
Statistically speaking if there’s any “living among us” to be talked about I think we should be talking about people who have had no mental health problems that are living among the rest of us.
On the idea that it can’t be seen “like a broken arm” I think it’s interesting to note that surveys show that most people don’t actually know what it means to “break an arm” (eg. patients will very often give a history that they once broke their arm when they actually fractured their forearm) and the vast majority of us don’t know how to effectively treat and repair a broken arm. For me this underlines the importance of ensuring patients can effectively have their concerns heard by a regulated professional who has the neccessary training and experience in helping patients suffering with mental health problems.
“People form their attitudes in the community by what they see in the media as portrayed as what is mental illness, what is mental health and what is associated with this” Jane Arigho, Media Project Coordinator Headline
I also think it’s important to realise that today WE are the media. In Ireland more than most places that’s abundantly clear eg. more than 44% of us have a Facebook account, practically everyone has text messaging (we practically invented it!) and there’s not a single soul in the country who doesn’t know what you’re talking about if you said you were going to “Talk to Joe”.
“The surveys continue to show us that people who are in employment still will not disclose that they have an issue of poor mental health or emotional unwellness for fear of being discriminated against… …I find that when I’m talking to people who have a difficulty with their mental health either now or in the past they have huge issues around being treated with decency, kindness, respect, being listened to, being listened to, you know suddenly if I go into a general hospital and no matter how bad my circumstances are and somebody comes along and says to me if you don’t have this treatment you’re going to die and I say ‘I don’t think so, I’m not going to have that’ I get listened to, well it’s different when you have a mental health difficulty, somehow you’re not going to be listened to” Kathleen Lynch, Minister responsible for Mental Health
If we can accept that being listened to is the challenge why on earth are the marketing efforts mental health charities spending their money on so lacking in engagement?
Okay so this isn’t as bad as the £multimillion UK campaign by the Samaritans (that puts premium rate numbers on posters across the rail network) but it could learn a lot from this post on Engagement marketing by Tomi Ahonen as it’s still got no real/feasible call to action eg. if you were someone effected by mental health problems who happened to be noticing this bus shelter advert:
While important that we throw away the taboos about mental health when you appreciate the incredible challenge many patients face when they try to get access to just basic health information I don’t think it’s good enough to say we need to just have more opportunities to talk about mental health. I think we need to wake up to the huge burden mental health problems place on modern society and we need to provide citizens with free access to a means by which they can have their concerns heard by regulated professionals who are experienced, have recognised training and can provide their patients with documentation of their advice.
How do I think mHealth can make a difference?
Imagine the win/win for society, the mobile industry and health/social care providers if mobile operators zero rated the website of Ireland’s HSE.ie (or indeed charities like Amnesty.ie) so that anyone with a mobile internet enabled phone could access important health information at a time/place that suits them free of charge.
Imagine if on these websites the organisations who are looking to help patients suffering from mental health issues provided secure tools that could help visitors use their website to better prepare for and document the reasons they want to meet with a healthcare professional?
Here’s an introduction (by John Bachman MD, Professor of Primary Care at the Mayo Clinic) to one such online tool that provides a means for patients to take action now and ensures that their efforts are documented so that whenever they meet with a healthcare professional their concerns will be heard and they can have a written record of the advice and information they received.