Maybe you thought this post was about the acceleration prowess of the latest response vehicles. But I think that 0 to 100 has a far more valuable context – within the next 25-years it could be the 'normal' lifespan of a human! And during that lifespan, those humans will face quite a few challenges. Many of the physical ones will be dealt with admirably and this could be the reason that life expectancy is increasing: evolving drug therapies; excellent surgical techniques; improved emergency care; improved understanding of life-restricting activities; and such things as organ donation and replacement. But the aspects that are not understood so well or taking such drastic and forward-thinking steps relate to the mind: that great unknown.
Adult mental health and wellbeing is becoming better funded, more researched and accepted as a necessity in modern society. All emergency services personnel (and many other healthcare providers) are becoming more and more attuned to the needs of those with psychological disorders or challenges. And this is a really good start, no issues here – but what about those service-users who sit at either end of the age spectrum? What about children and young people, and the elderly? I don’t mean those who are unfortunate enough to have recognised, diagnosed issues such as autism or dementia, I mean the ones who have acute challenges such as stress, depression, anxiety or loneliness. Where does our understanding go for those individuals?
Well, it could be me, but I think we have a tendency to try and push that worry aside in general. Either on to someone else or alternatively back to the individual: to label it as something else or suggest it isn’t within our remit. Too many of the most vulnerable in society (and by this I mean old and young) are continuing to suffer psychologically as we put their situation down to it just being their age, or the fact that we live in a ’snowflake’ society (I personally hate that word...), that someone is grumpy, or ‘just’ a teenager… But mental health and wellbeing diagnoses for these age-groups is on the increase, and we as the front-line connectors need to be ready for this.
Are we trained, are we educated, do we know, are we ready!? So many questions. But there are so many more – are we bothered, is it our problem, is the problem real, are the issues just a representation of something else? I could go on…
We live in an ageing society where acuity continues to reduce year by year, but also a society where children and young people are seen more and more as being at risk of mental health problems, and I suggest that what we do in order to know best how to help is far from adequate. We do our best, we try to do no harm, but we can’t do what we don’t know.
So what’s the answer?