Here’s a conversation I had with a service user recently:
Them: “What do I have to do to get someone to come and see me, kill myself?”
Me: “Well, that’s the last thing we want, and we have arranged to see you as soon as possible, which will be tomorrow.”
Them: “I thought you’re supposed to be providing a service for people who really need it.”
Me: “We are, but we only have a certain number of staff available.”
Them: “Well, why don’t you get more then?”
Me: “That’s a good question, maybe you should take it up with the Clinical Commissioning Group, or your MP.”
Ok, so I’m paraphrasing. But here’s just one small example of how my day to day work is impacted by the wider political sphere, an issue that social workers often forget is also part of our remit to address.
At recent event organised by the Social Care Strategic Network for Mental Health, the focus was on how mental health social workers can use a human rights approach to enhance our work. Following much interesting discussion and examples of how the idea of human rights has been used to advocate for better services for people, the point was made that amongst all the other damage being done by the current government, the government’s proposed abolition (or watering down) of the Human Rights Act could have a significant impact, and is an area in which we can perhaps still influence government. To hear this acknowledged out loud in a room full of social workers felt very powerful, and even inspiring. It felt like perhaps we could try and change some of the many disasters that some of us can see brewing at the moment.
It’s not just workers that need to connect to the wider world. So often, when meeting with people struggling with their mental health, their concerns are broader than just their own difficulties, and take in global issues. And not just worldwide conspiracies to bug their telephones because they know some secret crucial information (although I’ve come across those too). I’ve discussed with people issues as broad ranging as climate change, world religions, war in Syria, the migration crisis, drug legalisation, the holocaust, international football and classical music. The point is that people’s spirits come alive when they are interested in a subject outside of themselves, they light up, and the conversation becomes more valuable and beneficial for them and for me.
So that’s why I wasn’t joking when I encouraged the person mentioned above to contact their MP. When a national or global issue is affecting us, it’s easy to feel hopeless and helpless (as one does with depression) but there’s usually something we can do to feel more connected to the world and to possibilities for change, even if it’s really small. Even if it’s by raising awareness, raising money for charity, signing a petition, or maybe just reading a blog about it ;-).
So that’s why I’ll be joining the picket line for the Junior Doctor’s Strike on Wednesday. By the way, regarding the Human Rights Act, if you want to join the campaign, there are worse places to start than with the Amnesty International petition. So there you go, that’s my call to action for today, now stop feeling hopeless about the state of the nation and get busy!