I went to Parliament in London yesterday to participate in Men’s Health Week 2013. We were raising awareness of issues at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Misuse, chaired by Tracey Crouch MP. Tracey is an amazing lady who I met when we both spoke on the UKESAD panel a month or so ago. Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb and I joined academics to tackle the stigma in men’s mental health and advocate for more support, particularly when suicide and self harm are likely. My angle was alcohol and drug abuse, recommending the Twelve-Step programmes to all who have a problem, and suggesting the British government should be encouraging more rehab facilities to open, not closing them.
Here is some quotes about the meeting:
“18 years ago, 30 days in rehab turned my life around,” John Taylor said to representatives of the House of Commons and House of Lords. Since rehab, he has enjoyed worldwide success with this music and acting, and traced his journey of addiction and recovery in an autobiography last year.
“Due to its success, I believe in rehab. Addiction is an Equal Opportunity illness: it affects people from every walk of life, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion or wealth. However, I was OK as I could write a cheque for rehab – most people can’t. They need the government to step in and help."
“Residential rehab is not free and usually not cheap – but they do lead people into 12-step programmes which act as free aftercare for life. There should be a nationwide campaign to inform GPs of what addiction is and the proven value of 12-step programmes. There should be more support for people to study and train as addiction counselors."
“One day, I would like to see rehab offered to all who need it."
Dr Richard de Visser, School of Psychology, University of Sussex added that “John is right in saying addiction is an Equal Opportunity illness, unlike others which can be linked to lower socio-economic groups”. It can affect anyone.
Minister Norman Lamb said that “I am passionate about mental health, and extremely concerned about suicide. That is why I launched a suicide-prevention strategy last November, and we have also had the Time To Change campaign. There are links between alcohol and self harm: suicide is an impulsive act and alcohol has a dis-inhibitory effect, leading to far greater risk”.
Other speakers at the APPG included David Wilkins of Men’s Health Forum and Dr Amy Chandler of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh.
Before the meeting I got to visit Number 10 Downing Street. I can tell you it's like Doctor Who's Tardis. Behind that door is a vast warren of stairs and rooms, and a killer collection of British art...and some quite substantial silverware that Mrs. Taylor would have had her eye on if she had been there.
In the evening Nick and I went to the annual event of the Founders Forum, hosted by Prince Andrew at Windsor Castle. Another first, I had not been there before either, and it was as spectacular as one would hope. Here's the view as we left the party.
All in all, a good day!