Invest in Mental Health

Mental Health

When a government spends money, they have to justify that money. When you think about health and general medicine the cost of say a new scanner, or funding a new chemotherapy drug can be neatly justified in terms of easily quantifiable health outcomes.

But investment in psychiatry is not quite the same. Mental Illness can be due to a pre-disposition for the illness but will normally have been triggered by a life event and will be affected by the person’s own personality, life circumstances and history as well as their opportunities for the future. And every person is different.

In short with mental health the neo-liberal desire to quantify the expected outcome for every penny invested in any area, is left unfulfilled. Nobody can invest money into a particular psychiatric treatment and detail an estimate of what we would see as an improvement on the nation’s mental health as a result of that investment. But does that mean we should stick with investing the least we can get away with for ever? Is it not time to say that mental health matters and look at everything that will lessen the blow of mental illness on our communities?

Psychiatry is not such a highly researched branch of medicine as general medicine. But many people feel that some people do have a pre-disposition for certain mental illnesses. There is also a lot of common sense that can be applied to mental health. Would you stop being depressed if your home was uninhabitable or cold? Would you not be depressed if you lived on the streets and had no hope of getting a home? How can we expect anyone battling anorexia to overcome their illness when all around them the media is telling them that fat is unacceptable? Is it so hard to understand that bullies cause stress and continuous stress may result in mental illness?

Making people’s lives better and giving them more hope for the future may not carry an estimate of how much it would improve the nation’s mental health. But I doubt anyone would discount it as unnecessary? And although we couldn’t quantify the improvement in mental health it would bring, I am sure we could say that there would be an improvement.

Mental health needs the population and government to stop needing to have an exact outcome for every penny spent. We need to invest in every area, not just the clinical areas, that may affect mental health. We need to recognise that mental health matters and stop being embarrassed by the fact. Mental health problems can have a huge impact on a person’s life but I do believe that this impact could be lessened significantly.