The problem of mental health
This weekend I was interviewed for an article on mental health in Northamptonshire. It was prompted by a piece of research I was given by the chief executive of Wellingborough MIND, Nigel Mansfield (Nigel is also quoted in the article). There were a number of things that troubled us about the research; the first was that, although commissioned by the NHS, hardly anyone could find it. Even the journalist who wrote the article couldn’t find it when she searched for it on the internet; so you have to ask why compile such a comprehensive report and then, in effect, hide it? The second thing was that almost 8,000 people went to see their GP to help them with their phobia; GP’s don’t cure phobias. They don’t have the time (the average patient visit is 6 minutes) and I’ve yet to meet a GP who knows how to cure a phobia. I can only guess that patients are issued valium to help them get onto a plane or deal with their spider issue; this means that there are still nearly 8,000 people in Northamptonshire with uncured phobias. The other thought Nigel and I had was that there are a lot of people with mental health problems (almost 90,000) and it is known there aren’t enough counsellors and therapists to help them. Is that why the report was buried? The NHS simply doesn’t know how to help all these people.
I’ve been doing this since October 2002; the first one I cured I did live for a journalist at the Kettering Evening Telegraph. I even borrowed a spider (a Chilean Rose tarantula) and the handler and cured Nikki Sail in just under an hour. We were even featured on the BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2495945.stm
Since then I’ve done hundreds of phobia cures. Flying is by far the most popular phobia I’ve cured. Memorable stories are the lady who wanted to see her son in Japan as he was getting married out there and was sad that she couldn’t get there. One session with me ended up costing her £700 for a ticket, but she went to the wedding. I had one couple who were unforgettable. He had a fear of heights and going up ladders, whilst she was scared of snakes; I cured them both – my ‘snakes and ladders’ couple. They’d been married for years and never thought about that. I advised them to go and buy a compendium set! I once cured a young boy who was scared of needles. At one point in the session I asked him to close his eyes and remember a time when he felt relaxed; he sat there for about a minute and then suddenly opened his eyes and asked “You’re not going to give me heroin are you?” I said no, not at these prices! A lady who, cured of her bird phobia, said – when I took her to a local pet shop – “oh they have faces”. She’d never looked at birds like that before. Other common phobias are dentists, driving, confined spaces, lifts (elevators), dogs, wasps and the number one, statistically of all time, public speaking. More unusual ones are beans, buttons, Victorian toilets, cotton wool, sex and the French!
The way forward:
Better marketing has to be at the forefront for all therapists and counsellors; prospective clients have to know where you are. They go to their doctor because it’s the first port of call; if a doctor doesn’t know where you are or is unwilling to refer you then you have a problem, but so does the client/patient. For many finances will be an issue – they simply can’t afford private consultations. Some people will say that the NHS should fund this, that’s cloud cuckoo land. We know the NHS doesn’t have the funds. I think with some negotiation the private and public service world can work together. The fact is something needs to be done. 56 people committed suicide because they felt live was no longer worth living or that they couldn’t get help. There will also be those people who don’t want help, for them mental illness is their badge, their identity, but my belief is that many want to be ‘normal’. I was told once, by someone who had a nervous breakdown, that she once forgot how to drive. She sat in the middle of the road, crying, because she was so overwhelmed that her brain couldn’t function to get the car moving again. She has since made a full recovery, I’m happy to say.
Last week the same newspaper ran a feature on work place stress – the number one reason for absence at work http://www.northantset.co.uk/lifestyle/spree-with-jill-robinson/stress_is_now_the_top_reason_for_sick_leave_1_3159370
When I talked about cost, how about this? “Latest figures from the HSE suggest that stress in the workplace costs the country over £530 million per year, equating to the loss of over 13 million working days. In the current difficult economic climate, as businesses work hard to recover after the recession, these figures look set to rise.” Taken from an article called ‘The Cost of Stress’.
So, here we are in a time of flat growth and economic turmoil in a seemingly endless spiral of mental ill-health. It can’t be good for us, the nation or the economy. This research has convinced me that I have a role to play in all of this. I know, over the past 9 years, that I have helped many people on the path to a better life. It’s a rewarding job (for the soul), but equally it takes emotional strength to cope with what I hear and how I help with it. It’s important for the therapist to stay in good shape too and to follow the advice that he/she gives. It’s why I advocate the holistic approach so much. I’m trying to raise awareness of this as an issue. If you have mental health issues, or know someone who has, the facts prove that you are not alone and this is seeking to show that there are people who can help. If this has stirred a thought in you please contact me either by email firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 01536 513715.