When it comes to #mentalhealth, how mad does government think we are?

Detentions under the Mental Health Act have gone up.

(How’s that Mental Health Crisis Concordat working out?)

The proportion of people with mental health problems who are supported in the community has gone down.

(Those 52 local authority mental health champions are doing well.)

And there have been real-terms cuts to adult mental health funding year on year since 2010 and a similar picture for children’s mental health services.

MH spending 0809 to 1314 h

It’s ok, though, because these things have happened only at a time when we’ve had arguably the greatest focus there has ever been on the mental health system. Plus, the upcoming mental health taskforce will, I’m sure, succeed where every previous attempt to change the mental health system has failed before. (By the way, where is it? The engagement findings were trailed in June (though not actually published until September) and suggested an “emerging findings” report in the “next month or so”. I am Jack’s sense of apprehension…)

I know we’re supposed to be positive and be the change we wish to see. But, really, there’s only so much bollocks people can take, isn’t there?

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Back to the Future, misogynist coders and harmful memes

backtothefuture

The Back to the Future meme does the rounds on Twitter and Facebook every couple of months or so. As Paul Clarke notes, people want to believe this rubbish, irrespective of whether it’s true or not, because it harks back to their younger days.

Similarly, the CCTV camera outside the house where George Orwell used to live pops up in my timeline at least once a month, despite there being no such camera.

Orwellcctv

This probably relates to people wanting to show they’re clever because (a) they’ve read a book, and (b) they understand the irony.

Both the Back to the Future and Orwell memes are, though, pretty harmless. But what if a meme isn’t as harmless?

This weekend saw a really good example. Tomas Sancio was being “burned” on Twitter for supposedly suggesting to a (female) journalist that they “read” an article they had in fact written.

Burned edited convo

Except, of course, that isn’t what he was saying. As he makes clear in later tweets, Sancio was saying he had “read” (“red”, past tense) the article and was offering a comment on it.

What’s worse, the actual exchange included an additional tweet from the journalist that didn’t show up in the screen grab doing the rounds.

Burned actual convoIn this case, it would appear someone edited the screen grab of the actual conversation, which itself was based on a misunderstanding of what Sancio had tweeted.

What this meant for Sancio himself can be seen from the number of times the altered image was retweeted (of the order of a thousand) and the tenor of comments made directly to him. In my view he deals with it with good grace, but it can’t have been easy; at times what people tweeted at him was clearly harmful.

We see similarly harmful memes beyond the level of the individual: the infamous all-male panel at an international women’s conference and how many MPs vote on particular types of issues are two recent examples of memes supposedly representing system-wide issues when, in fact, they do no such thing.

But what do these harmful memes represent? Why do people create them, literally, out of something that isn’t there?

Clearly, they reinforce people’s existing views. People hold views about particular issues – “we live in a surveillance state” (Orwell’s meme); “men are misogynists” (Sancio’s tweet, the all-male panel); “all MPs are only in it for themselves” (the Commons pictures) – and the pictures/memes they see reinforce those views.

Having had their view so neatly backed-up it takes very little thought or effort to share those pictures/memes on to others, without wondering (or perhaps caring) whether or not they are accurate. Very quickly and very easily, then, the essence of what each meme represents – and so people’s views – is transmitted, irrespective of whether it’s true or not.

Much harm can be and is done quickly and easily by this process – just ask Tomas Sancio. Such behaviour isn’t anything that can curbed easily (it is, after all, human nature) but next time you see a meme that captures perfectly how someone might feel about a particular topic, try to engage your critical faculties and ask whether it is just a bit too perfect before sharing it.

Healthwatch shortchanged: I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise

News from Healthwatch England today that:

around a quarter of the £43.5 million made available by the Department of Health to fund local Healthwatch has failed to materialise in local Healthwatch accounts.

Collectively the 148 local Healthwatch organisations have received £10 million less than was outlined in the budget by the Health Secretary

The money has either gone missing when it was allocated to DCLG to give to local authorities, or when local authorities themselves allocated it to local Healthwatch.

I’d love to say this was a one-off, but unfortunately it’s not. I previously pointed out:

although £27m was allocated for LINks, Councils only spent £24.3m of it on LINks – they effectively creamskimmed 9% off the budget

and concluded there was “no guarantee they won’t do the same for local [Healtwatch]”. Sure enough, that’s what’s happened.

There will be talk of “commissioning and procurement” costs, as well as “building” and “other overheads”, but that’s all crap, and local government* / DCLG will know it.

Two things really stick in the craw about this:

  1. Healthwatch is a statutory requirement. If this is being done for something that’s legally required, what the heck is being done to things that don’t have the same underpinning (such as advocacy?)
  2. Notwithstanding the overall very difficult financial climate, local councils often get support to meet their own statutory requirements. For example, they were given £11.3m in 2013/14 to collect new information regarding adult social care services (itself more than the amount local Healthwatch are missing).

As I tweeted:

What a load of bollocks.

(Original news via HSJ)

*I am actually a fan of local government, but sometimes it really doesn’t help itself.

e-Petitions: some headline figures

Just because I’m occasionally a miserable so-and-so, I thought I’d look to see what sorts of signature numbers e-Petitions attract. I should note straight up that I think e-Petitions are a superficial, trite and virtually pointless means by which people engage in the political process.

Overall, there are 14,382 completed e-petitions so far – all of which are listed here. This doesn’t include currently open e-petitions (of which there are 5,949) or rejected petitions (of which there are 17,525).

Of those 14,382 e-petitions which have been completed:

  • 16 have received more than 100,000 signatures (i.e. 0.1% of petitions completed so far)
  • 50 have received more than 10,000 signatures (0.3% of petitions completed)
  • 75 have received more than 5,000 signatures (0.5%). Or, put another way, 14,307 have received less than 5,000 signatures (95.5% of all completed petitions)
  • 239 have received more than 1,000 signatures (1.7%). Or 14,143 have received less than 1,000 signatures (98.3% of all completed petitions)
  • 368 have received more than 500 signatures (2.6%). Or 14,014 have received less than 500 signatures (97.4%).

Discrimination: Pushing boundaries and crossing the line

Today’s Double Take on 5 Live talked about some comments the producer of QI had made about comedy on television becoming “bland”.

To illustrate the point, the presenters suggested that potential or actual reactions to Miranda’s recent “chocolate lollipop penis” or Frankie Boyle’s comments about Katie Price’s disabled son demonstrated it was hard to push the boundaries of comedy on television.

Putting these two examples in the same sentence is ridiculous. One is sexual humour. The other is plain discrimination, and as such is in contravention of equality law.

What makes this discussion worse is the fact it followed a news bulletin item in which Trevor Brooking called for more direct action to be taken in countries where football fans are not dealt with appropriately for making racist comments towards players.

The conclusion I was left to drawn is that it’s crossing the line when well-known participants in a high-profile activity are targets of racist abuse, but that it’s pushing the boundary when the disabled child of a well-known celebrity is the target of discriminatory abuse.

Pathetic.