The year started well, with February seeing the Government’s publication of their standards on access and waiting times, ensuring a maximum two week wait for young people experiencing psychosis before accessing NICE approved care. But… in contrast, February also saw publication of an analysis linking unemployment and poverty to suicide and mental health problems. March saw the same matched pair of announcements. The Government announced £1.25bn in extra funding for children’s mental health care, which contrasted with the linkage of mental health problems with Government policies of ‘austerity, sanctions, and the rise of food banks’.
More generally, in 2015, we saw increased (positive) discussion of mental health issues in Parliament. We now have a shadow Minister for Mental Health sitting in the shadow cabinet, and helping raise the profile of this issue. The fact that she comes from a political background of public health is valuable.
For the British Psychological Society, then, we’ve been actively promoting a positive, hopeful, vision for mental health care. We continued to promote our hugely popular report into psychosis in the USA (in March), in Ireland (in June) and in Sweden (in October). And, although both American and somewhat painful, the historic vote by the American Psychological Association in August to repudiate torture and return to the fellowship of civilised society was an important turning-point for the profession of psychology.
In other words… some positives, some negatives… but a lot of work to be done. Next year… well, who knows what politics will bring. Probably more positive policies and increasing attention to mental health … within a budget in the UK which has seen a relative shrinkage in % GDP devoted to healthcare and austere social policies, all of which impact on the nation’s mental health. For the British Psychological Society, 2016 will see the publication of a major report into depression, building on the success of our report into psychosis. We will also make progress on the ‘Personality Disorder Commission’, chaired by Norman Lamb MP, which began work in October.
On a personal level… 2015 saw me become elected President Elect of the British Psychological Society, awarded (almost) £1m by the Economic and Social Research Council to review the impact of national and local policies on community wellbeing. The President Elect role is somewhat time-consuming, and so, on 1st January 2016, I shall no longer be the Head of the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society at the University of Liverpool, one of the best places in the world that you could be fortunate enough to work. But… we have work to do, and we need to clear the decks…
... PS ...
And 2015 finished well too.
Margaret Whitehead, Head of Department of Public Health at Liverpool, has just been named in the New Years Honours list with a Damehood, as has Til Wykes (who examined my PhD). Together with an OBE for Geraldine Strathdee, that's a good end to the year.