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World Mental Health Day

Our name – Child Psychiatry UK – gives us away, rather. It underlines that, in the main, young people are our priority. It is true that children, and their psychiatric and emotional wellbeing, are chief amongst our concerns. But that doesn’t mean we’re not passionate about mental health in all forms.

Today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day 2013. This year’s theme is mental health in older adults. This is an important field for us all to focus on and something that demands our attention.

Mental health problems can be prevalent in the older generation, but certain issues at their root are common in all ages. Stigma, for one, which has once again been a major talking point in recent days. You can add depression, isolation and loneliness to the list, these being problems that are not exclusive to older people. We often see such things in the children we encounter here. Trying to ensure that such troubles aren’t carried into adulthood is high on our agenda.

Today’s young people are tomorrow’s elderly, so it’s of great importance that, as mental health professionals, we always keep one eye on the bigger picture. Mental health has innumerable strands, but so much is shared and common is our goal . . .

To provide better support for those most in need. To recognise the issues and ensure they’re addressed. To change attitudes towards mental health. To stop stigma once and for all.

It is this last challenge that continues to be our greatest because no matter our efforts to inform and educate, old habits die hard. The Sun, on Monday, decided to publish a front-page headline that screamed: ‘1200 KILLED BY MENTAL PATIENTS’. In a joint response, Sue Baker (Time to Change), Paul Farmer (Mind) and Paul Jenkins (Rethink Mental Illness) described the headline as ‘sensational and damaging’ and called the episode ‘incredibly disappointing’.

Irresponsible at best, it is instances such as this that fuel stigma and stop people – young and old – from seeking the help and support that they need. If anything positive has come from this, it’s that mental health remains a big talking point, and that the subsequent backlash (the response on social media networks such as Twitter, for instance, has been remarkable and encouraging to see) has highlighted that an increasing number of people are taking this seriously and throwing their weight behind the cause.

Be it those who turned out for Newcastle Mental Health Day last weekend, those taking part in this week’s Student Mental Health Conference in London, or those marking Bipolar Awareness Day on Tuesday, there is a growing momentum and it’s up to us to harness it . . .

To enhance mental health services across the board. To provide more effective treatments for everyone. To help improve life for all dealing with mental health problems. To recognise the wider agenda and to do everything in our power to achieve our goals.

It’s with all this in mind that we’re pleased to support World Mental Health Day. It’s our hope that you will too.

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