Rules are made to be broken. And anyway, these days we have far too many of them. Those who work in public services have little hope of remembering them all.
Despite all that, I wrote this list in tribute to the wonderful work of @nurse_w_glasses. And Moses. It applies as much to regulators, commissioners, leaders in NHS trusts, local authorities, private providers and charities as it does to frontline staff.
And all humans.
- Thou shalt always remember that the mind and the body are intrinsically linked. There is no health without mental health. And mental health is everyone’s business.
- Thou shalt always present a positive image of people who need help with their mental health. It is nothing to be ashamed of.
- Do not take the name of people who experience mental illness in vain. Never use terms such as nutter or psycho, even in jest. We may pretend we get the joke, but inside we weep.
- As with religious practice, working in mental health requires humility. Do not be dogmatic or rush to judgement of others. Instead, practise acceptance and loving kindness.
- Honour the people who choose to work in mental health, whatever career you personally have selected. They have not chosen the easy road.
- Killing other people is illegal. Killing oneself is not, but it carries huge stigma and casts a terrible shadow over those left behind. Learn how to help prevent suicide. And never condemn those who might consider it. They need your understanding if they are to seek help.
- Mentally ill people can be trusting and vulnerable. They may lack inhibition. Never abuse a position of power physically, sexually, financially or psychologically.
- Never treat people who experience mental illness with anything other than compassion and patience. If they make you feel angry or mean, get some help yourself.
- Try to tell the truth about mental illness and the current state of services. This is neither easy nor straightforward. They need serious attention and investment in the UK. There are no quick fixes. But relatively little will go a long, long way.
- Be hopeful about mental illness. Those who experience it from time to time can lead full and rewarding lives, with just a bit of love and support. Like me.