In some ways it’s good Matt J McLaren didn’t get called to speak at Liberal Democrat conference in the mental health debate. He might not have published his speech on his blog if he had been. And these are remarks that deserve a much wider audience.
He talks about his struggle with a mental health condition, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and how his doctor told him he’d have to wait 18 months to get the treatment he needed for it. Imagine that – over 500 days of living with the acute distress of this condition before the treatment even begins.
He challenges politicians to get this sorted now:
Simply put, the point I want to make with this speech is that there is no us and them when it comes to mental health.
Society, and its politicians, need to stop thinking of mental health provision as an exercise in providing a service for those poor souls afflicted with strange and peculiar conditions of the mind; and start realising that, with one in four adults afflicted with mental health difficulties at some time in their lives, it is a service that is there for all of us.
Any one of us is or can be affected by mental health difficulties at any one moment, and we need to make sure that if and when that happens they are not denied access to the right treatment in the way I and so many others have been.
And as a politician, an aspiring Member of the European Parliament, and a voice for this party – I consider it my first duty to dispel myth and misinformation around any subject, not least one so emotionally laden and liable to be a cause of even greater distress than the original condition itself.
So, Conference, we need to shout loud and clear, there is no shame in mental health difficulties.
I’ve always been really lucky and managed to get the right sort of treatment quickly when my Depression has become unmanageable. The thought that people have had to wait a year and a half brings me out in a cold sweat.
The speech Matt never made is now one of the best blog posts I’ve read this year. Please read it yourself, share and learn.
As an aside, if you live in Scotland, it’s Scottish Mental Health Week. Yesterday the Scottish Government launched a mobile app for your phone. It took me a while to work out what to do with it on my iPhone, so please don’t feel I’m patronising you if I give you a few pointers. Once you’ve scanned the QR code, you need to open it in Safari before you try to save it to the Home Screen. That had me looking at it and scratching my head for a few minutes but we got there in the end.
Anyway, the aim of the app is to help defeat “Stigman” who displays all of the usual prejudices about mental health and the object is to defeat him with the very sensible rebuttals. I’m not 100% sold on Stigman as a concept to be honest, but if you can see past that, the actual information is good. You can sign the pledge on tackling stigma at the See Me website here.