Today is Time to Talk day. But more on that later…
I was at the Royal College of Psychiatrists a couple of months ago when I noticed something – there was a new logo behind the reception desk. The Royal College of Pathologists used to occupy the top floor of the building, but they seemed to have been replaced. I had no idea what MHFA stood for, but, when I got into the lift, I saw that the top floor had now been assigned to Mental Health First Aid England.
It is significant that a social enterprise, the principal aim of which is to improve the mental health of the nation by raising awareness of mental health issues through providing training to staff in various organisations to spot the signs of mental distress, is now based in the building of the professional body concerned with mental health. It demonstrates the increasing prominence of mental health and wellbeing in the public psyche. I have seen more patients who are senior bankers and lawyers in the last two years than I did in the previous eight.
High profile people in the public eye talking about mental health issues have certainly helped. Perhaps most remarkable, all things considered, is the involvement of royalty. The Duke of Sussex was very open in a recent television documentary about his mental health issues and he, his brother and their wives jointly started the Heads Together campaign to tackle the stigma around mental health and face some of the issues head on.
Another group promoting openness about mental health issues is Time to Change. They have instituted a Time to Talk Day, which has become an annual event; organisations are encouraged to spend that one day a year encouraging people to talk about mental health issues. And, as I said at the beginning, that day for 2020 is today.
If improved mental wellbeing is to be achieved as a public health objective, these sorts of initiatives are crucial. More of them are springing up and more of them are being acted upon by organisations and companies. We are not yet at the point where we are seeing an impact on public mental health compared to, say, the introduction of the childhood measles vaccine in 1968, but we are at least heading in the right direction.