Stephen Clarke, CEO of WHSmith, shares why he's investing in mental health research.
My husband Mike and I have been together for 20 years now, and his problems with mental health have always been present. For a long time, medical professionals believed he was bipolar – this turned out to be a misdiagnosis and we recently learnt he has ADHD, a developmental disorder that often occurs alongside other problems, most commonly depression. In fact, he’s had ADHD since he was five years old, and it’s taken nearly 50 years for him to be correctly diagnosed.
I wish I could say Mike’s case was rare. But the truth is, getting the right diagnosis and treatment is a challenge for so many people with mental health conditions. In fact, of those minority who are receiving treatments, 50% of them do not work.
No one should have to wait that long for answers, and endure all the pain and distress that mental illness brings with it.
I know that in many ways, we were lucky to have a great support network. We could access the best possible care and treatments. For many people, that is out of reach and they have to struggle on alone.
That could all change with medical research that improves early diagnosis and delivers new treatments.
Despite mental illness causing as much distress and pain as physical illness, it doesn’t get anywhere near as much focus and resource as physical disease research. Even the fact we have to ask whether mental illness needs research shows how little attention is paid to it. Can you imagine asking that question about cancer, MS or blindness?
We need to get to the stage where mental and physical health have parity in the way they are researched, treated and accepted by wider society. Because mental illness is indiscriminate. It impacts on people across society, and it constrains people’s entrepreneurial spirit and productivity – preventing many people from becoming successful.
I don’t want any family to go through distress due to mental illness. I’ve seen all too closely how mental illness can blight lives, and that’s why I’m investing in mental health research.