Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission.

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This week is Mental Health Awareness Week (#MHAW15). I know that some find the parade of special days, weeks and months a bit tiresome and wonder how much impact they have. I am firmly in the camp, though, that welcomes the opportunity to focus on a specific topic, raise the profile and share relevant information — not least because it gives me an obvious subject for my weekly blog.

Work focus

But, as many of you will know, mental health awareness is a topic already close to my heart — workwise and personally. In the Adult Social Care Directorate at CQC we are responsible for regulating social care services provided for people with mental health problems. We work alongside our colleagues in the Hospitals Directorate where the specialist mental health team led by Dr Paul Lelliott regulates and inspects NHS and independent mental health services. Very often the services we regulate are provided for people in the most vulnerable of circumstances; people who rarely have a voice. It is crucial that we work on their behalf, ensuring that the services they use are safe, caring, effective, responsive and well-led.

Personal impact

I know how devastating the effects of mental ill-health can be, both for the individual and those close to them. My youngest brother Adrian lived for many years with clinical depression and in 2006 killed himself. This has had a profound effect on me and my family. It is hard, and the guilt I feel because I know I should have done more has never left me. Supported by my family I have written and spoken about Adrian’s suicide before — not for sympathy but in the hope that our openness will raise awareness and help others to seek the help they need or know that if they too have been bereaved by suicide, they are not alone and it should not be a guilty secret.

I’m glad…

That’s why I’m glad that the Mental Health Foundation has been promoting Mental Health Awareness Week since 2000 covering such diverse topics as stigma, alcohol, loneliness and this year, mindfulness.

I’m glad that Mind and Rethink have established Time to Change to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination.

I’m glad that Simon Jack bravely explored on Panorama why so many middle-aged men kill themselves as his own father had done at the age of 44. (The scene with his mother is heartbreaking).

I’m glad that in 2008 a complete stranger talked Jonny Benjamin out of throwing himself off Waterloo Bridge and that he filmed his search for him so he could say thank you. It is an incredibly moving and uplifting story — though a tough watch for me.

I’m glad that more and more people are coming forward to share their experiences or talk about their loss and in doing so bring mental health into the open where it needs to be. Thank you Lisa Rodrigues, Nadia Mendoza, Alison Cameron, Rob Webster and so many others.

More needs to be done

But more needs to be done. Only this week, Twitter highlighted to me a petition on the Wakefield Council website campaigning against the development of a local mental health service. The examples of stigmatising news coverage and TV drama would need a whole blog by itself just to scratch the surface.

Which is why raising the profile of mental health is so important — increasing empathy and understanding will help to change attitudes, ensure better services and support people more effectively. Please take the time to follow the links above to read the blogs, watch the films and learn about the people involved.

What will you do?

But despite my advocacy for Mental Health Awareness Week, let’s remember, mental health is not just an issue for a week in May — it’s a day-in, day-out challenge throughout the year. We all need to play our part — what will you do?

Originally published at www.cqc.org.uk.

We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve.

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