Returning to valued roles is one of the most potent ways of restoring positive mental health and a range of social enterprises run by the First Step Trust is making an important contribution to this process.
The charity is providing a range of supported placements – for example, in garages, cafes, caterers and print companies –throughout England, all intended to act as a bridge back into paid employment for those who have fallen out of work due to mental health problems.
Furthermore, recent changes to EU rules will allow a more prominent social-wellbeing dimension to be written into the contracts, thereby strengthening the hand of enterprises overseen by organisations like the First Step Trust.
In the Western world, it is well established that people who experience mental health problems are more likely to die prematurely as compared to the general population. It is less clear as to the major factors that contribute to this shortening of life.
A recent overview of 203 studies from 29 different countries http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/289247.php reported that the risk of mortality in people diagnosed with a mental illness is more than twice that of people not so labelled and equates to an average of about 10 years of life lost. The authors concluded that 67% of deaths in the psychiatric groups were attributable to ‘natural causes’, 17.5% to ‘unnatural causes’ and the remainder to ‘other or unknown’ causes. Furthermore, they estimated that approximately 8 million deaths per year worldwide were attributable to mental disorders.
A small proportion of people suffering mental health problems will, tragically, commit suicide. In addition, social deprivation and disadvantage (much more prevalent in the mentally disordered population) will contribute further to the greater number of premature deaths. What is less clear, however, is the degree to which prescribed psychiatric medication (particularly the long-term use of antipsychotics) is the culprit. True to form, current psychiatric researchers tend to underplay, or even ignore, the role that the drug ‘treatment’ might play in shortening life despite there being robust evidence that antipsychotics increase the risk of heart problems, stroke and diabetes.
The shrinks have invented yet another disease! The name of this new addition to psychiatry’s psychobabble is ‘systemic exertion intolerance disease’ (or SEID for short).
Dissatisfied with the existing terms ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’ and ‘myalgic enchephalomyelitus’ (ME) to describe people who suffer prolong periods of unexplained listlessness and inability to concentrate after exertion, experts at the Institute of Medicine (USA) have been working intensively to improve the image of the disorder. The ubiquitous committee was convened – the same process adopted by those DSM people when generating their spurious diagnostic classification systems – and subsequently compiled a 235-page report which they hope will convince the many doubting clinicians that SEID is a real disease. I wouldn’t hold your breath on that one!
I recognise that many people suffer medically unexplained fatigue that can detrimentally impact on their lives. But inventing a new name and calling it a ‘disease’ is unhelpful and will potentially promote further helplessness in those so afflicted.