There is an absolute moral imperative on all of us to tackle the ‘outrageous discrimination’ against people with mental health problems, said Norman Lamb MP at a recent conference. I don’t think any of us would disagree with that – the question is, how? As our article shows, the problems are magnified for people from minority groups, and when you add the stigma of a drug or alcohol problem, it’s not surprising that people are not presenting for help. Dual diagnosis has been much talked about in recent years, but are we addressing it logically?
The conference itself was an extremely positive experience, with ideas flying around throughout the day. Participants pledged to network beyond the event, and there was plenty of support for integrating mental health, substance misuse and social care. But it also highlighted the need to reach beyond our sector – it was seen as crucial to engage people at a much earlier stage, which means joint planning with health services and education to catch them before they are at crisis point. Yet who has the time and money to think beyond a day job that’s full to capacity?
We have to talk about this, or it renders our good intentions meaningless. It requires a different way of working and a different level of investment that has to be underpinned by political support – and not just that of our free-speaking shadow ministers. If you have experience of working with dual diagnosis, please share it with us.