There is still much to be done for our nation's mental health

It's too late for my friend, but hope is there for others. None of us should wait until the funeral of a loved one before we take this seriously

Share
Related Topics

If what we were told is true, my friend Simon Jones has finally found peace. His funeral was at a small crematorium outside Ipswich on Tuesday and, to the accompaniment of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven", his coffin disappeared and we were left with our memories of a kind, deeply intelligent, generous man who could live no longer with a mental disease that had scarred his life. He will, in the words of Shakespeare recited during the service, "fear no more the heat o' the sun, nor the furious winter rages" – deeply and poignantly appropriate words for a young man who found that he had to live his live between blue skies and a terrible darkness.

There wasn't enough time for every aspect of Simon's life to be reflected at the funeral, but I knew him as a colleague, a studied and meticulous newspaperman in whose hands a sow's ear of a metaphor would emerge as a silken piece of prose. But I also knew him as someone with a horrendous mental condition, as did everyone at his funeral. There was no attempt to hide the truth about Simon and the bipolar affliction that drove him to take his life, with the effect that our personal recollections were mixed with wider, more profound thoughts about the nature of the disease from which he suffered. Could we have done more? Could the state have done more? How do we as a society deal with mental illness?

We didn't have to wait very long for the answer to some of these questions. Yesterday, a report into the treatment of schizophrenia concluded that standards of care for mental health patients in Britain fall "catastrophically short" of what is required. This Government should be praised for prioritising mental health issues, with the aim of establishing parity in the treatment of physical and mental illnesses, but this report – the result of a year's work by the Schizophrenia Commission – shows how much is still to be done. I am grateful to Alastair Campbell (who has written candidly about his battle with depression) for directing my attention to a blog by Paul Jenkins, an expert in the field and one of the report's authors. "Imagine being diagnosed with an illness for which there is no cure," he writes. He explains that the best drugs to combat the disease were developed in the 1960s and haven't been refined much since, and neither has society's approach to mental health problems improved.

Schizophrenia costs the country £11.8bn a year, but Mr Jenkins claims that if the focus was directed towards support of sufferers rather than managing risk (about 20 per cent of the entire mental health budget is spent on secure care), the cost – in every sense - would come down. But what he seeks, too, is a change in our attitude towards mental health.

He seeks more openness, more compassion, more determination to tackle these issues.

None of us should wait until the funeral of someone we know before we take this seriously.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Thousands of Russian troops marched on Red Square in the annual Victory Day parade in a proud display of the nation's military might amid escalating tensions over Ukraine  

Once again, the West fails to understand Russia

Mary Dejevsky
Jamie Oliver joins children as they celebrate Food Revolution Day 2014 by cooking bread, making smoothies and creating salads at St Paul's Whitechapel CE Primary School in London  

Teaching children to cook at school is a recipe for self-respect

Grace Dent
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before