Reading of Theresa May’s interest in overhauling mental health provision (BBC 090117) made me think of the need to try to address mental health issues before they become too developed. Ideally we would all be better at spotting signs of distress in our children, or in children we care for. The things we identify in children’s behaviour, perhaps issues around toilet training, engagement with other children, aggression, or a tendency to withdrawal, might lead us to wonder more about the emotional wellbeing of those children.
This is because our emotional issues, our mental health, tends to have something of a career. So for example we might see children start to act out more socially destructively as they grow up. We might see signs of more aggression, perhaps of truancy, shop lifting and so on. The question might be what do we do with these signs, with the things we observe? Do we do anything about them?
We may have grown up with parents and carers who were themselves quick to turn a blind eye or who just were not very sensitive to the needs of others. We might find, when we look more closely at our family histories that there was something of a lack of care in their lives, and when we come to reflect upon it we might see that this has had an effect upon us.
Mostly we don’t just suddenly wake up as adults with mental health issues. We travelled to the mental states that we now start to realise we have arrived at over a period of time. Mostly we can see that those issues and character traits have a longer history.
So if there is now to be an attempt to deal with the “hidden injustices” of mental illness I hope that they will include a greater consideration of early care.