Sick Note Culture: “An ill thought out response to a perfect storm” says mental health ambassador

Health / Sun 28th Apr 2024 at 10:37am

HEADLINES recently have been dominated by the government’s plans to crackdown on ‘sick note culture’.

Ian Beckett, Essex Ambassador for Kintsugi Hope, the mental health and wellbeing charity says he was concerned and alarmed at the message this was sending.

Ian reports that Patrick Regan OBE, a mental health survivor and advocate, who set up Kintsugi Hope with his wife Diane, has shared his views on the announcement.

Patrick said: “This week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak decided to take on ‘sick note culture’, yet failed to mention that many of those accused of being long term sick are waiting for operations/appointments due to lack of investment into our NHS. Currently there are 1.9 million people on waiting lists for mental health support in the UK.

“Our young people, who are struggling with their mental health, more than any previous generation, can wait up to two years to receive support for it. They have also lived through the largest pandemic the world has known in recent years, and the lockdowns relating to this have created a tsunami of new mental problems, as well as accelerating existing ones; there was no vaccine that could cure this. Then add in a cost-of-living crisis, and you have a perfect storm.

“As someone who struggles with their mental health, when listening to our Prime Minister, I felt despondent. I appreciate there may well always be people who abuse the system, but the bigger question I feel we should be asking is, ‘What sort of culture we want to be?’ If we define culture as the way we do things around here, I do not want to be part of a culture that appears to blame the sick for being sick.

“I believe we are missing something vital from our conversation about health – and that is the importance of relationships and community. We seem to be more polarised than ever, yet a 2020 study on social isolation and loneliness in older adults found that, among other damaging effects, loneliness is associated with the following:

“An increased risk of premature death from all causes, to rival that of deaths caused by smoking, obesity and physical inactivity
A 50% increased risk of dementia
A 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke
Higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide

“Among heart failure patients, a nearly four times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalisation, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits
Research has indicated that ‘the effect of loneliness is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and can significantly increase the risk of premature death, while more than three-quarters of GPs see between one and five lonely people a day.

“Several years ago, I hit a perfect storm with everything going wrong at once. My eldest daughter was very ill for six weeks with a condition called HSP; I was diagnosed with a degenerative condition which resulted in having both my legs broken in three places and rebuilt inside a metal frame (which terrified me). My dad was then diagnosed with cancer, and was in hospital for 9 weeks and only discharged after four different operations; my other daughter was diagnosed with additional needs, and at the same time my wife had a miscarriage.

“I’ve always struggled with anxiety, but when you go through such a traumatic time, it adds rocket fuel to your anxiety. It was as though I was spiralling out of control.

“I got to the point where I wasn’t even sure I wanted to live any more, because I felt I was such a burden. It was then that I started searching for something a little bit deeper.

‘When I started to struggle with my mental health I didn’t know where to turn. I was being told I should just be ‘more grateful’, ’try harder’, ‘pull yourself together’, ‘stop attention seeking’ and even ‘make better choices’. I was honestly trying, yet I felt I was struggling alone. I was off work, and went to GP for help: but as well as being prescribed medication I know I needed something else which would sustain me and help me to move towards recovery – and that was relationships.

‘After my recovery I longed to target the brokenness of a mental health system where it appeared you essentially must be suicidal before receiving proper support and intervention. In a society that focuses on self-actualisation and tells us that leaning on others is weakness, I believe we must restore community support and relationships to alleviate the loneliness and lack of belonging that is a major driver of and contributor to mental illness in our culture today.

“Out of this longing, the charity Kintsugi Hope was founded, based on the Japanese art of Kintsugi, where broken pots are mended with gold, highlighting the beauty in our scars. Offering free mental health groups in the community, there are now 400 registered organisations in the UK running peer-led wellbeing groups, with 10,000 people having been through these so far.

“These groups, which last twelve weeks, are modelled on the concept that mental health is more than medicine. In an individualistic culture that tells us constantly we need to make it alone, Kintsugi Hope wellbeing groups allow people to belong without having to fit in, and to experience the unconditional community, acceptance and support that is often so lacking in our fast-paced, social-media, appearance driven world.

You can’t legislate relationship – but I maintain it is vital to mental illness recovery.

For more information about Kintsugi Hope visit www.kintsugihope.com or email [email protected]

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11 Comments for Sick Note Culture: “An ill thought out response to a perfect storm” says mental health ambassador:

2024-04-28 12:22:26

Well said, Patrick Regan. I have experienced the wait for help with mental health support through the NHS. It can be a long and frustrating. Its not the patients fault that they have to wait so long for help. And I have noticed a definite increase in people suffering from mental health conditions since the pandemic especially. Sunak's statement and plan lacks compassion and care. But what do you expect from him and the Tory Government?

2024-04-28 15:13:10

It is incredibly alarming that on top of this the tories want to removed PIP for people with mental health disorders and replace them with talking Therapies. Most 'talking therapies' offered are cognitive behaviour therapy in different guises, often online with no input from a trained therapist. This isn't talking about mental health issues, this is simply forcing people to change their behaviours in an attempt to minimise the impact of their mental distress on those around them. The upshot of that being different behaviours will arise in desperate attempt to manage the psychological distress. Instead of looking at how many people are unable to work through sickness the focus should be on why this is the case. Everywhere things are broken, NHS in bordering on unfit for purpose, the local surroundings are being allowed to go to wrack and ruin, employment is reduced to poorly paid service industry jobs. Housing is largely something many people can only dream of. We are heading towards 3rd world conditions and those in power to do something about it are sitting back and letting it happen. Instead of putting their hands up and saying we've screwed up they're blaming the most vulnerable in society and turning people on each other

Kim Oconnor
2024-04-28 18:03:32

The vulnerable again,are hit ,time and time again.

peter linden
2024-04-28 23:09:01

Lovely government ruin everyone health, hope and aspirations, when we get depressed smash us some more.. How can a country work for so few..

2024-04-29 05:33:22

Perfectly put Resident and everyone above.Huge waiting lists for MH support making people worse.Absolutely zero compassion/understanding from toxic tories.Anyone referred to VITAMINDS do not proceed!!!Checkout trust pilot reviews.They are a complete nightmare.I am now having to pay for therapy from MIND from my PIP.They do low cost talking therapy £15 an hour.Highly recommend,they're at Bush fair)Latton Bush mental health services cut to the bone,not fit for purpose.People who don't know anyone struggling in MH system haven't a clue.Thank God for all the MH charities supporting people and revealing the truth.Harlow toxic tories why things so bad?Certificate at MIND bush fair from "Halfon working hard for Halfon" saying he opened it or something.Robert Halfon please explain exactly what QUALITY, FIT FOR PURPOSE resourses are available for people needing help in Harlow and please DO NOT even go there with VITAMINDS!

2024-04-29 06:21:17

Anyone thinking people are living it up on PIP.Most of mine goes to pay for quality MH support each week.

2024-04-29 06:43:22

These people who decide to bring out these rules , are narrow minded . If they cannot see something physically wrong with someone then they should be working . That's the trouble with mental health problems, if you can't see it then it's not there. I have a family member with OCD. They still work , but every morning struggle to go, because their manager thinks it's a stupid MH disorder and would find it funny and take the piss out of them. They were on medication but there is some very nasty side effects. They have said to me , I wish people who poo poo mental health could be in my head for a week. I have much sympathy for people with MH conditions .

2024-04-29 07:22:05

In the news last night, even more changes to those on PIP. I remember how wrong this went last time the Tories reformed welfare payments with people who were just box tickers and not medical experts. People with terminal illnesses had their funds taken away, making an already horrible situation just so much worse. The amount of money the UK spends on sickness benefit is pretty small in relation to all our other spending, the nasty party are again punishing the poor guy. Tax the rich fairly, stop loopholes, stop wasting our money on stupid projects without the electorate's backing (Rwanda), stop claiming thousands in expenses, that money alone is more than most people can dream of, stop giving yourselves pay rises, taking helicopters for short journeys and a million other situations similar, and stop picking on our most vulnerable.

2024-04-29 08:13:19

Trace . I don't always agree with what your posts. But when it comes to MH, it does not matter what our political views are we should all be as one.

2024-04-29 08:16:30

And Trace and all other posts on this subject , well said , even Kim.

2024-04-29 09:18:47

Woody, when I read the news last night about further changes to our most vulnerable, not just MH, my blood boiled. I am so very cross (but not at all shocked) by the latest move to punish our poorly folk. Not many people wish to be unwell, be mentally or physically and years of cuts to both mental health services and the NHS have left people on long waiting lists to get the help they need. I daresay the mental health of those waiting for physical treatment will go downhill too, making the crisis worse. These people are being punished by moves the Cons have made of the last 14 years, through no fault of their own. It is grossly unfair and not human at all.

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