In 2013, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a long-lasting period of depression; a few weeks ago, I was discharged as an out-patient after spending several weeks under a mental health home treatment team, having suffered a manic episode crammed with delusions, little sleep and a somewhat adamant neglect of both food and hygiene (I lost weight and I’m still in desperate need of a barber due to a matted dreadlock that has formed from the absence of a comb during this period).
Though the illness isn’t entirely life-consuming – one can lead a perfectly normal, fulfilled and enjoyable life with bipolar – it still, without the appropriate medical care, affects the quality of one’s life. Many young men and women die as a result of this illness because of suicide, drug addiction or risky behaviour caused by the nature of the illness. And the lack of awareness and funding for mental healthcare contributes to each one of these tragedies.
It shocks me that mental health is still a taboo subject in modern society. Most political parties barely acknowledge it; individuals who suffer from it remain closeted out of fear of losing their job, loved ones or opportunities; care is desperately underfunded and general understanding of it is comically poor. The Liberal Democrats are, to my knowledge, the only party that has directly addressed the issue of mental health in their manifesto and on the political main-stage. Though I’m certainly not suggesting that I joined the party purely because of a single issue, mental health was certainly a formative reason as to why I did.
A single line on the Lib Dem website – “(We) believe mental health should not be ignored or stigmatised. It should be taken as seriously as physical health” – sums up what I believe most mental health patients wish would be the case. When it’s not ignored, it’s often patronised, which is a form of stigmatisation. The Lib Dem policy, as spelled out by the same webpage under the heading “Choice in Mental Health”, of allowing patients to choose their own care path is vital in combating this, albeit well-meaning, stigmatisation. We mental health patients are not incapable of making our own choices, and the right and freedom to choose our own health plan should never be stripped from us. I applaud the policy makers of our party for this approach. We need not be nannied, only allowed to openly seek healthcare and be free to pick our own path to recovery. Linked with the funding of Time to Change, I see a party with a mature understanding of what mental health is and what sufferers endure in times of crisis.
I am proud to be a member of a party that not only takes mental health issues seriously, but acknowledges them openly as policy. I am proud that Nick Clegg, as unpopular as he may have been among my fellow student chums during the coalition years, spoke about mental health issues in the election debates of 2015 – and I am also proud that Tim Farron has picked up the torch to continue the fight for better lives for all mental health patients everywhere.
* Dean Moore is a student in Salford and has been a member of the Liberal Democrats since February 2016.