On Monday Theresa May, the UK Prime Minister, will make a speech promising to improve mental health services and to reduce the suicide rate. The speech is, in part, a response to recommendations from NHS England’s mental health taskforce, and to the House of Commons Health Committee’s interim report on suicide prevention published just before Christmas. Whilst we welcome a renewed focus on suicide, we worry that (if you will excuse a macabre pun) the Government are flogging a dead horse. The central thrust of the proposals seems to be that we need to keep on doing what we’ve been doing (unsuccessfully) for decades, only more of it.
In this discussion we focus on two reports. The first is forthcoming book from a London School of Economics group, involving Lord Richard Layard, and titled ‘The Origins of Happiness’. Even though this hasn’t yet been released, it has prompted a great deal of debate: especially with the conclusion that poverty and inequality may be less important than good mental health for human happiness. The second document is a major report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and written by the Mental Health Foundation’s Iris Elliot. This offers what may be a less surprising conclusion: that poverty and inequality are intimately bound up in the development of mental health problems. Links to the reports and other pieces related to the discussion are listed below.
‘Daaaaaaad! You let Sam on the computer. IT’S NOT FAIR!’
So goes the soundtrack to the summer holidays. Rather than scrambling to put dinner on the table, get in the washing and manage my job (in half the usual time and without the aid of school) my top priority is to ensure parity between my children. How could I have possibly forgotten? There shouldn’t be a cigarette paper of difference in terms of equality; activities must be balanced for treat-magnitude with the judgement of Solomon. Other than of course the finely calibrated extra privileges that accrue to the my older one as a result of seniority and long service. Long service, you understand, consists of having been demanding for longer and it all counts in the great ledger that I clearly failed to check.