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A sane approach

8th April 2008

Mental health charity Sane plays a crucial role in the treatment of mental health in Britain, writes Harry Phibbs in The Guardian.

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Problems associated with mental health are rarely talked about openly in the UK. Our reticence is quite attractive compared to the American population's propensity for multiple sessions with their psychiatrists.

This type of self-obsessed person can brag about the quantity of their appointments to elevate their social standing. In contrast, in Britain talking therapies are controlled by the public sector.

British people usually respond to the idea of visiting a counsellor with awkwardness. However there is the danger that this means people with mental disorders are not receiving the treatment they require.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the charity Sane, has been drawing attention to this issue for many years. The charity was set up in response to her pieces about schizophrenia which she authored for The Times in 1986.

When it was set up, Sane stood for "Schizophrenia - A National Emergency", but now handles a much wider range of mental disorders.

When I listened to Ms Wallace at an event a couple of years ago, she spoke in a humorous way about using a system to help people calling the charity's telephone service, Saneline.

She joked: "I wondered how it would work. If you are a co-dependent, we suggest you ask someone else to press two. If you are an obsessive compulsive, press three continuously. If you are a multiple personality, press four, five, six, seven and eight. If you are a schizophrenic, just wait and a small voice will tell you what to do..."

Saneline, which was introduced in 1992, helps over 2,500 callers every month. The charity wants to increase awareness about mental illnesses, research and study conditions through The Prince of Wales International Centre for Sane Research and to offer help through the telephone service.

Mind is the other notable mental health organisation. One of their staff says in a briefing that "User involvement now has 'politically correct' status in mental health." I am not certain to the meaning of this and the rest of the briefing document.

Both charities do much to aid people with mental health issues. However Sane's use of "plain English" gives it the edge.

 

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