News broke last night that the lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington committed suicide, say LA County Coroners.
I want to start by saying that Chester Bennington is one of many people who have suffered from mental illness (this does not make their deaths any less important) and subsequently took their own lives when they couldn’t cope anymore; but when it’s someone high profile like Chester and Robin Williams, it brings this very important issue to the forefront of our media and rightly so.
Very sad news to the millions of Linkin Park fans; some of whom were due to see them on their upcoming world tour. That said, there is a bigger story than upset Linkin Park fans; and that’s the stigma of mental health and the head in the sand approach from our elected representatives when it comes to treating mental health with the same importance as physical health.
In the UK (data from 2013) 6,708 were reported to have committed suicide in the UK, up 4% from the previous year.
In the US (data from 2015), there were 44,193 reported suicide deaths.
These are incredible figures which show there is a real problem, that needs a real solution.
Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrats MP from North Norfolk, who’s sister committed suicide and who’s son suffers from mental health problems has been an inspiring campaigner on mental health issues. I heard him speak about it there being a need to start treating mental health on the same level as physical health and it rung a bell.
In the 2017 general election the Liberal Democrats went into it with this very pledge and a plan to tackle this disproportionate funding we find in the services available.
In April, it was announced that Mental Health funding would be reduced in 5 regions in the U.K – Clinical commissioning groups in Sefton, Scarborough, the Isle of Wight, St Helens and Walsall are reducing spending on mental health by £4.5m
We pledge to invest a further £6 billion per year in the health service, £700 million per year of which would be ring-fenced for Mental Health services.
During the election, the Liberal Democrats backed a legalised, regulated and taxed Cannabis market – a policy which some think, “why would this help with mental illness, surely it is going to make things worse!?”
Reports from the US show that legalisation does not increase usage in adolescents; and data published in 2015 show that Cannabis usage in teenagers does not increase through legalisation either. The guardian reported: “A key finding from the research, which collected data from teens aged 12 to 17, is that patterns in youth marijuana use are closely tied to broader trends in adolescent behaviour – a connection that the authors say is much stronger than any potential correlations between use and legalisation.”
There is an argument to be had alone about the funding that could be gained from legalisation Cannabis in the UK through taxes.
Make no mistake; our health service is already footing the bill for those who have abused Cannabis and suffer from mental illness – the same people who hide away and deal with this increasing problem in silence.
By legalising the drug, we can take away the stigma, we can offer them help and there will be funds to pay for mental health services and more – as well as reducing the usage and strength of the drug by having a regulated market; as well as better education for those thinking about getting ‘high’.
So, at which point do we say “it’s time to look at the evidence”? At which point do we follow other countries like the Netherlands, Spain, Uruguay and many parts of the United States of America and legalise Cannabis?
On a local level, North East Derbyshire and Bolsover Liberal Democrats are helping local residents working with the mental health Charity Rethink to set up the Tupton Safe Space Project as a drop in service for those suffering from mental health issues that want support.
Tupton Parish Councillor Pam Windley, who is a former foster-carer, has witnessed first-hand the effects of people self-harming, and living with drug and alcohol dependencies. she said: “It’s important to break the cycle. All too often children growing up in homes where a parent is suffering mental health issues will experience the same problems. And parents are often afraid to seek help, because they believe that social services will take their children away. The Tupton Safe Space Project is there to ensure that everyone has access to the support they need without the fear of such things happening.”
This project will hopefully be the start of a real tangible service being offered and it has local residents at the heart of everything it wants to achieve.
Let us take inspiration from the tragedy of Chester Bennington taking is own life and use our own time wisely to do what we can to prevent more people doing the same.
Rest In Peace Chester and to the thousands of people who have taken their own lives after suffering quietly from mental illness.
The music you made that got many of us through our teens will live on…
If you are suffering or know somebody is suffering, contact your GP for advice, alternatively you can speak to contact Rethink on 0121 522 7007 for General Enquiries and Support Care. If you are unsure who to contact, email firstname.lastname@example.org.