Mainstreaming mental health

By Eibhlin Ni Ogain 28 May 2013 2 minute read

The last few years have seen positive movement in views towards mental health—but we still have a long way to go before we see mental health treatment as routine as, say, a dental check up. Recently I’ve come across some very interesting ventures working to change this.

First of all, a visit to a relatively new and fascinating charity called MAC-UK. MAC’s vision is to completely overhaul the way mental health services are accessed by excluded groups. MAC-UK was started by clinical psychologist, Charlie Alcock, when she noticed a group of young people hanging around on the street outside the youth centre in her local area. Charlie was intrigued by this group and started asking about them. She was told they had been excluded from the centre and were the ‘troublemakers’, on the ‘path to prison’. Charlie figured the group were probably the most in need of help and so started hanging out on the street to make contact with them. When she had eventually built a close enough relationships with the group, they told her they would love a space to record their music. This was the beginning of MAC-UK and its ‘Integrate’ model: a specially developed approach to building trusting relationships with at-risk young people. This relationship allows MAC-UK psychologists and youth workers to start understanding what the young person’s needs might be and either address these through therapy or by helping them access other services like training, education, or help into employment.

In NPC’s report on early intervention, we found that the most common mental health problems among young people are conduct disorders. 80% of crime is committed by adults who had conduct problems as children, and around 1.3 million young people in the UK have serious problems with behaviour. But only a minority get the right support to overcome their difficulties. Among adults, mild to moderate anxiety and depression are the most common mental health problems, affecting an estimated 7.6 million people. Thinking about the way mental health service provision takes place and the way treatment is accessed, we are missing a huge proportion of these two groups who really need support and early intervention before problems escalate.

But for this early support to happen, mental health treatment needs to be brought out of the clinic and into everyday life. MAC-UK is trying to change this by bringing support to young people in locations and formats they are comfortable with.

This brings me to another interesting venture I stumbled across recently: Mindapples. Mindapples promotes the use of simple things we can do every day to help our mental well-being. Just like eating an apple is said to be good for our physical health, there are things we can do to build positive mental health. The Mindapples website promotes this idea and gives examples of simple things we can do.

Both these organisations are helping to bring mental health into everyday life, changing the way we access and think about mental health treatment. This is crucial if we are to even begin thinking about changing the shocking statistic that one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health difficulty at some point in their life.