The climate is changing dangerously in the coming years will cause us great harm. We need to work to lessen the impact and stop things getting worse.
But in just the coming months there are challenges to recognise, face and deal with. Most of us can find ways to stay warm, fuel our bodies with food and do our best to minimise risks from flu and coronavirus. But many, too many, can’t.
Currently about a thousand people a week are dying from coronavirus. We rightly celebrate the benefits of vaccination but perhaps too easily forget that we are suffering a pandemic that could get worse. Already, testimony from NHS staff suggests that they are nearing breaking point. The knock-on effect is that many illnesses are not receiving the treatment they require. This is particularly the case for people suffering mental distress. Addiction services from the statutory sector receive less attention. So, for both recovery and support for mental health issues and addiction (which ideally would never be considered as separate) the weight falls on third sector, community- and user-led initiatives. The better news is that the best support has always come from such places, and will continue to do so.
We suggested in a previous post that over time there is a good case to be made for combining recovery work across all ‘addictions’ and to recognise that what works in general mental health recovery initiatives can also work for people whose primary concern is ‘addiction’. Within the addiction recovery field, for instance, the Scottish Recovery Consortium is beginning to work with gambling while traditionally it has focused on alcohol and other drugs: this example is repeated in many organisations. Since a ‘gambling addiction’ may not only come with mental health conditions such as depression and severe anxiety but also be considered a severe mental distress on its own, it makes sense to share recovery pathways that work in general mental health approaches.
While there will always be a need for some people, though not all, to receive specialist ‘expert’ treatment, the wider community and peer led enterprises can complement this and in many cases be enough. Such enterprises range widely. There is no one ‘fix’, rather there are many smaller possibilities that can combine appropriately for a unique individual with their unique biography. Some examples include one-to-one peer support which involves training, available from third sector recovery organisations; sharing voices; traditional user-led groups such as 12 Steps of SMART Recovery; informal social media support; support from Citizens Advice and debt management charities; workplace schemes. All have their place across all mental health issues.
Additionally, there are opportunities to become active in campaigning. For those who have been isolated in their suffering, creative work or things like men’s sheds or horticulture or volunteering are all ways of increasing social contact while being of benefit in themselves.
The coming months look precarious for many. With inflation predicted to rise to 5%, the government’s award of a 3.1% rise in the state pension, for instance, represents a lessening of income. Energy prices have already soared and basics such as food will also cost more. Businesses will struggle to survive as raw material costs increase. The removal of the £20 universal credit weekly top-up and the ending of wage furloughs will both add to suffering. The prospect of decent, affordable housing for millions is as further away than ever. Expect big increases in council tax as authorities struggle even to maintain basic services.
Financial hardships will bring a deterioration of population health. Statutory funding for ‘addiction’ services, savaged since 2010 is unlikely to top national governments’ priorities. Still, it is vital to keep campaigning to increase recognition and needs for more resourcing as a longer-term goal. For now, it seems the time to pool resources wherever possible, to partner each other even where sectors have not traditionally done so. and at the same time to consider whether there is enough in common between the various ills we suffer to formulate the beginnings of a common approach.