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"Without new knowledge all we have is treatments that aren't good enough"

Mental health writer Mark Brown explains why making progress in mental health cannot come soon enough. He's swearing because he believes research will lead to exploration that can provide hope for the future. Join the movement.

We just don't know what to do about mental health difficulty.

Levels of illness and distress are rising while all we have is the same old suggestions and the same diminishing pool of ideas. There isn't a past to return to for mental health.  Things were not better in the old days.  We have to face the future. 

The international symbol for improving mental health treatment and support might as well be a shrug and a 'dunno'.  Many of the breakthroughs made in medication, oversold as they might have been, are already decades old.  There are few new approaches on the immediate horizon because no one funds research and new thinking.  What does exist is done on a shoestring.

People with schizophrenia run the risk of dying 20 years earlier than the average British person without schizophrenia and we don't know what to do about it.

Psychological problems during childhood can lead to 25% lower earnings by age 50.  Being unwell young can have an impact on the rest of your life and we don't know what to do about that either. 

People end up iller, poorer, more isolated, more vulnerable and we don't know what to do about it.  People are living lives that are hard and brutal.  People are dying from things to which we should have answers. And we still don't know what to do. 

So why doesn't it seem like a crisis? Mental illness and mental health difficulty are glacial apocalypses.  Few people die immediately; societies don't collapse.  There's never one dramatic moment where society looks around itself and says 'We never thought it would get this bad. Now's the time to sort things out.'

The future is slow in mental health because, when it comes to it, people don't put their money up. There's always something more pressing, more important to spend it on. Every year that we neglect research is another year we waste.  We don't know where the answers to some of the challenges we face every day with our mental health difficulties might be found; but without the funding of a broad range of research and exploration they'll remain forever hidden.

Am I angry? Yes I'm angry. 

The lack of attention paid to mental health has given me a permanent sore in the side of mouth where I bite my cheek in frustration.  It feels like making the lives of people with mental health difficulties better is as much of a utopian dream as fully automated luxury communism or holidaying on Neptune.

Often experiencing mental health difficulties saps our hope, hollows our bones, makes everything seem impossible and insurmountable.  Like rising damp or mildew, this lassitude afflicts our institutions and saps their will to make things better.  Nothing will change, we just have to stop things getting worse.  We're losing the battle for a mental health future that we make. 

In mental health we can't see a line to the future. All we see are long days of struggle and even longer nights of doubt and terror where everything is like pushing a rock up a mountain. 

The hardship and suffering of living with mental health difficulty can erase any vision of a better life or a better world.  Our mental health services seem to constantly teeter on the brink of collapse; surviving from month to month like a family trying to make ends meet, stretching out the final pounds in the bank in tight-lipped desperation. 

We shouldn't have to make the choice between things being better in the present and things being better in the future. That's a false choice born from forever being starved of funds and resources: we deserve both. The next breakthrough might come in the most unexpected place or through the funding of research so speculative that its immediate application to day-to-day life seems unclear.

We need research. We need exploration. We need hope.

Look around you: without spending on mental health research; without new thinking; without new knowledge this is all we'll have - a world and treatments that aren't good enough.

We need to make the future happen for mental health now. Because it's already too late.

Last updated: 1 February 2017

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