"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

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Saturday, 1 February 2014

Mindfulness and Mental Health

I wrote in this series on 31 December last year, perhaps a little optimistically, that we are seeing the dawning of a new paradigm in the history of medicine, entering an era where the spiritual healing needs of the patient can be met alongside both alternative and complementary therapies and the very best of the latest clinical medicine. I said that there are certainly pockets of excellence across the healthcare establishments, for example the Integrative Medical Clinic, of Santa Rosa, California, at the very forefront of this exciting new world of enlightened healthcare.
But this dawning is truly only a glimmer at the moment.
As in so many fields the UK will in due course follow the lead of America in the full recognition of truly holistic healthcare that is available for all.
But a great deal of work needs to be done
on both sides of the Atlantic.
This is made very clear as far as the UK is concerned in an interesting recent post in the Webzine Bidushi, "Mindfulness for mental health: snail’s pace provisioning in the NHS." This article emphasizes just how poor the provisioning still is for mindfulness-based therapies for mental health in the UK, in spite of the recognition of its benefits by many, including many doctors, and in spite of its recommendation by NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. "On 20th January the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg gave a speech to launch the government’s “Mental Health Action Plan”, a speech that makes no secret of how
the importance of mental health has been consistently marginalised in society, policy and National Health Service (NHS) provisioning
till now."
The article in Bidushi makes particular reference to Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy MBCT, acknowledged to be extremely effective for the treatment and cure of depression and anxiety, yet still woefully unavailable for most patients. Instead antidepressants and other drugs are doled out time and time again, drugs with known and indeed unknown side effects,
drugs which cost far more than the cost of MBCT sessions,
and drugs which effect no cure, only mask the symptoms.
The article has some fascinating statistics about the disparities in mindfulness availability across the country and in the understanding among health care professionals of both its effectiveness and availability. It also highlights the tireless efforts being made by John Kapp who for 4 years now has been campaigning for much greater access to mindfulness techniques in his own Brighton and Hove health area.
Why does our healthcare system seem so reluctant to extend the availability of mindfulness based treatments for sufferers of depression and anxiety: when we know these treatments work and when so much money could be saved by the cash strapped NHS? Could there be vested interests at play here, from "Big Pharma," the pharmacological companies who have so much to lose from the drop in sales of antidepressants and other drugs to treat depression and anxiety?

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