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Fight to protect mental health services, and celebrate Harlem’s political awakening

Posted on 11 October 2010 | 10:10am

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day … I know, I know, every day seems to be something or other day, and nobody is ever quite sure what you’re meant to do with them, or who decides which day is which … but they do provide an opportunity for causes and ideas not always in the mainstream to get a little closer to it, if only for a day.

Mental health ought to be as mainstream as anything else in our lives. We all have it, like we all have physical health. But we are less open about it than we are about our physical health, and the stigma and taboo surrounding mental illness, whilst eroding somewhat, remain, and have a profound impact on people’s expectations and opportunities.

So what did you do on World Mental Health Day? Well, I tweeted a few tweets and I read the responses … which included warnings of direct threats to services, two of them very close to where I live.

The coalition government is preparing to announce huge cuts on October 20, which probably won’t be quite as bad as they are saying, but which will be bad nonetheless. Everyone will be arguing their own corner for their own services, their own benefits and so forth. But I hope that whether people have good or bad mental health, we make sure that mental health services do not work their way to the top of the culling tree. I fear they will, and we have to be ready to campaign intelligently and effectively to protect them. I certainly intend to be part of those campaigns.

Ps on an unrelated matter, namely the short speech one of my ‘challenging’ students made to a thousand people at the Cheltenham Festival on Saturday, the subject of yesterday’s blog. I wanted to share with you the email which just came to my website from someone called Justin, who was in the audience.

Mr Campbell, I attended your session with Libby Purves in Cheltenham at the weekend and spoke briefly with you at the book signing afterwards. I thought that your student’s bravery to take the mic at the event was great. There was a beautiful awkwardness as the audience was troubled by a passionate, unpleasant and radical political opinion. Sadly I think that most missed the point – you were introducing us to a success. Here was someone able to think and then articulate a view, where they would not have been able to (or perhaps permitted to) before. I think it really showed her trust in you and the new trust she has in her own voice. We, the audience, should all remember our clumsy grappling with economic, political and other debates in our youth and the luxury of the simplicity of our opinions. It was not really her message that we were privileged to hear … but that we were part of her awakening.
But, the young girl may well be on the right track. The Guardian Weekly front page leads with this story this week. Please pass on the link to Harlem and make sure she reads to the last sentence.
PS It would be good to also pass it on to middle-aged, employed man with his ‘Get a job!’ heckle.

Thanks to Justin, and to the others who made similar comments at the book-signing, and thanks to Harlem for having the guts to do it. By the time she left for home, she was talking about wanting to get into politics, and asking me to do the same.

  • Catriona Smith

    I love this story about Harlem and how chuffed you are about her, Alastair! You are demonstrating one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching, when you watch something dawning on a young person and they suddenly ‘get it’!
    Well done to Harlem and to you for inspiring those young people to get involved.
    During the week before the election this year, one of the children in my class told me of a conversation she had with her neighbour in which the neighbour said she wasn’t going to vote. ‘Don’t you know that people died so that you could vote?’ quoth she. After more discussion, the woman said she would indeed vote!! My pupil was so pleased (and indignant) to have
    changed the woman’s mind.
    I agree with Harlem and am asking you to join the front line!!!

  • Olli Issakainen

    I guess many people in Britain believe that the government is going to cut its spending in the coming years. Oddly enough, this is not the case.
    2010-11 the outlay is £696bn. The outlay will go up every year to 2014-15. It will be 699, 711, 722 and £737bn.
    The debt will increase from £932bn to £1.3tr. Deficit will come down from £149bn to £37bn. But the total interest charge on accumulated debt will rise from £44bn to £63bn!
    How is this? The explanation is that debt interests and benefits costs make the difference. The coalition has also ring-fenced the NHS and foreign aid. So the cuts will fall disproportionately on other departments.
    The appointment of Alan Johnson as the shadow chancellor signals that Labour will focus on the social cost of cuts rather than technical economic arguments.
    Ed Miliband has taught economics at Harvard, so he knows about these things. Ed has put his authority on Labour´s economic policy.
    Alan Johnson must now get the following story across.
    The emergence of massive global imbalance with Chinese capital exports created easy financial conditions in the west. This led to mispricing of risky assets.
    The core of the problem laid in the US sub-prime market. The US Federal Reserve played a central role in creating the current mess because it did not prevent bubbles from arising with good monetary policy.
    Labour did not create the deficit by overspending. The debt was taken to bailout banks, save jobs and keep Britain going. Otherwise banks could have collapsed and people could have lost their savings. And there would have been depression.
    The coalition´s cuts are oversized and too fast. They risk the recovery.

    Ps. I hope that Alastair Campbell will be the next MP for Burnley.

  • SimonB

    And if she’d got up there and said something you completely disagree with ?

  • Chris lancashire

    You conveniently ignore that Brown ran a structural defecit of between £40bn and £50bn for at least two years prior to the bank crash (which separately cost c£100bn – most of which will be recouped in subsequent share sales) and throughout the two years of the crash. We still have that structural defecit today.
    The massive national debt is not down to “the Banks”, it is down to Brown’s overspending for 10 out of the 13 years he was in charge of finances.

  • S Chapman

    Here you again….day in day out hitting the wrong note.Personal debt and reckless lending went out of control under Labour – creating a debt culture.The fact we had a subprime mortgage bond crisis brought the UK’s debt issue to the fore…you cannot possibly tell me that the Treasury under GB and Darling was unware of the lending practices of Northern Rock,Alliance and Leicester and Bradford and Bingley – simply no way.Quite why a tiny Scottish building Society were allowed to invest in US subprime mortgage bonds Olli is only your guess ….The labour Govt employed 1m extra workers mostly ideologically but improvements in public services did materialise.The trouble is when the debt merry-go-round stopped we were left with a massive structural black hole.This together with bailing out Northern Rock etc etc we now have to cut and cut again.If your figures are right(big ? ) and interest payments are going up what do you suppose we should do ?…leave it ?? or shore up our AAA rating so the said interest payments dont go up even more due.
    Something which I do agree with you is that Alan Greenspan was woeful at the Fed…
    P.S do you know Fred Goodwins relationship to GB and Alastair darling?

  • Sarah-dodds

    Just the story I needed after an especially crap day. It is, why despite it all, teaching is still the best job in the world. I defy anyone to tell me what beats the buzz of making a connection like this with a kid. It’s what keeps my job fresh and alive, even after days like today. Teaching and motherhood are comparable in many ways, but the chief one is that they provide the very lowest lows, but the very highest highs too.
    But bloody hell, am I knackered………..

  • Sarah-dodds

    I must not lt you annoy me, I must not let you annoy me….I must not let….
    Oh, sod it. “The Labour Governement employed 1m extra workers mostly ideologically but improvements in public services did materialise” Well, hey presto. Fancy that.
    Bog and off springs to mind.

  • Janete

    Just for the record, spending as a proportion of GDP prior to the banking crisis was 41.1%. In the year John Major took over from Margaret Thatcher (1993) it stood at 43.7%. Thatcher had been in power for 14 years at this point. The lowest level of spending to GDP the Tories achieved was 38.9% compared with Labour’s figure of 36.4%.

    The relatively poor figures of the Tory years were in the context of a starved public sector, with Health, Education, Policing and employment all performing well below norms in other countries. The pre-crisis spending levels of the Labour years had brought dramatic improvements of our vital services and as a consequence improved the quality of life for the vast majority of British people.

    I know right wing commentators don’t like the truth to get in the way of a good rant, but I think the facts speak for themselves.

  • Great speech at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists’ conference on Friday – well done. I’m sure it can’t always be easy to talk about your experiences – despite a doco and book on the subject! Am on to Chapter 7 of All in the Mind already…