The mental health bomb


The lunatic is in the hall.                                      

The lunatics are in the hall.

The lyrics from Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” are haunting and disturbing. They talk of an issue many people have, but which few want to know about; an issue  that lingers like a bomb that occasionally explodes in people’s faces with horrifying results.

The causes of mental health issues are varied in their origin. It might be a result of the brain being starved of oxygen at birth or related to the use of illegal substances. It might be an attack or an accident, a major disaster or combat in a conflict. The symptoms will vary from one person to the next, as will the diagnosis and the how and the when of it occurring. Addressing the problems can be costly and take time, but the consequences of failing to do so are very much worse and can include violent crime or suicide. And contrary to the prevailing attitudes of the day, it is not a situation where “hardening up” is an acceptable thing to say or expect.

Nobody should doubt that mental health is a ticking bomb reaching into all facets of society. From the very poor to the very rich; from the newest citizen to those who have lived here all our lives – we all know someone who has struggled with their mental health.

In Christchurch the situation is particularly serious. Six years after one of the most devastating disasters in New Zealand history we have a situation where there are people just starting to register the first signs of major trauma. They might be children wetting their bed or having nightmares or older people bursting into tears after an aftershock. They affect their ability to concentrate on a task.

The issue is not helped by a decline in mental health facilities and the staff who have to operate them. Nor is it helped by physical damage caused by earthquakes and neglect by officials unable and/or unwilling to do their job. Such places aside from being physically unsafe create an an environment conducive to depression and neglect.

The Government response has been lacklustre and fails to acknowledge the complex nature of the problem. And those problems are leading to people to commit crimes not because they thought committing an offence is a good idea, but because all too often it is the only way to make “the system” notice you. So, what one is actually seeing are final desperate cries for help, from people for whom the next move might be suicide.

They deserve our help and our compassion, because failure to do so might have some dreadful consequences awaiting.

The lunatic is in my head

The lunatics are in my head

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