On the need to do something

I’ve not long got off the phone to my mum. I’ve been meaning to put something up on here for a bit but never really had a starting point until now.

So my mum is friendly with the woman who run’s Lauren’s Place, a mental health charity set up after a teenage girl jumped from a car park in Accrington. The girl’s mother set up Lauren’s Place in her memory to help young people with mental health problems.

The crux of my mum’s call was that she wanted to make a difference, but was also stretched for time between her agency job as a care worker on a psych ward, and caring for me. She also tries to make sure my grandma’s okay as well as generally looking out for the family. She frequently expresses to me that she hates the state the NHS has been pushed into and wishes she could do more to help.

Okay, let’s back step, so my mum, who is literally in the perfect position as a nurse on a psychiatric ward, feels like she can’t do enough for people with mental health problems. Of course, I know my mum’s an endlessly giving kind of person, to the point that she often ends up being used as something of a doormat, but I think this really does speak for a wider issue here.

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Currently there are doctors marching on just about everywhere following major upheavals to their contracts which would mean them effectively being forced into unpaid overtime which could endanger the health of their patients. Mental health services are still being cut despite the increased amount of exposure in recent years. News of patients hanging themselves in hospitals comes in practically fortnightly. Nurses’ jobs are being cut by thousands. Whole trusts are being closed, along with A&Es, and whole sectors are being outsourced to private companies.

What I’m saying right now is the NHS is under attack. This isn’t really news to anyone, a lot of people (including myself) essentially said ‘well… I guess it’s goodbye, NHS as we know it’ when the Conservatives came into power. What I’m still astounded by however is the general lack of action this is (or isn’t) causing. Sure, we’ll grumble about it, keep on about the nasty, nasty Tories, but it still does very much seem that for a lot of people democracy ends at the ballot box.

Of course, this isn’t to discount the amazing stuff we’ve seen from NHS (and agency) staff lately. Workplace organising has a pretty rich and brilliant history, and though Unison, the main healthcare union, is not all that helpful, many people went out of their way to organise anyway.

And organising isn’t the only way we make a difference. Carers? You make a hell of a difference. Got a friend who’s struggling who you check in on from time to time? That makes a difference. Help someone in need? Makes a difference. In the same way microaggressions bring people down, microaffections (totally just made that up, am having that) lift people up. But even with all that people often feel that their voice isn’t being heard and the difference they make is too small. That they’re powerless to bring about change or that wider society still seems to be blind to the point they’re making. I understand this frustration, seriously, I do. Very much. But these things take time. I also understand that often it feels like it will take more time than we have, especially when you’ve been pushed to the bottom of the pile. But when people keep putting pressure on things, constantly, consistently, things start to crack.

I heard this quote recently which made me feel pretty hopeful.

“All revolutions are impossible until they happen. Then they become inevitable”
– Albie Sachs

It’s easy to look back on past successes and wonder why this hasn’t happened yet, but when we’re looking back we have no idea about time frame really, nor how anyone felt while that was happening, nor how often it was ‘impossible’. And it made me feel like ‘well how do we know how close or far away we are?’ and we keep on pushing until it happens, and we don’t stop until then (unless of course it’s for our own health). When things get hard, we get pretty downbeat about it. When the things that are hard are being made hard intentionally by other people and we feel powerless to stop it? We get angry. Angry isn’t an inherently negative emotion. With anger comes the energy and motivation to push us on. Sometimes destruction comes with anger, but we come out the other side stronger and better equipped, and hell, if you punched that wall and it cracked, you patch it up and make it stronger. Paint the walls while you’re at it. Or knock down the wall entirely and have a bigger room. I’m straying off into metaphor now, but what I’m saying is from burnt forests comes fertile soil (I think I just made up a new idiom).

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