Powering a juggernaut through a minefield of metaphors, Professor Sue Bailey last week achieved a spectacular pileup. Describing the dire state of mental health services, the outgoing Chief Pongo of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said, ‘It’s a car-crash that we are sleepwalking into’. Never mind the grammar being of the kind up with which we will not put, the utterance revealed what psychiatrists once called a word salad is now so old hat; instead, word-stir-fry is the new black. Bailey then took a punt at Health Secretary Hunt, but Punt was saving his powder for later in the week, when his chum Cammers was scheduled to get up in a crate, pop over the Brussels, and take a shufti. In the best English losing tradition, Punt reckoned that crashing and burning with only a Hungarian in tow was a swell show. Cammers himself appealed to an inverted – and so imploded – Pyrrhic logic, averring that sometimes one has to lose a battle to win the war. In the political fallout, only one thing was certain: Cinderella was still out in the cold.
In a my-first-blog posted on the Cinderella College’s website, the incoming Chief Pongo, Professor Simon Wessley, does his best to sound upbeat. There’s much crackling talk of Pathfinder fellows, and much heavy underlining of the assertion that psychiatry Really Is a Science. Only in the last paragraph of what is a long piece does the drumbeat of reality break through: the cuts are severe, and recruitment has still to recover from the double hit of Making Monkeys of Us All, and psychiatry’s very own own goal, New Ways of Putting Your Feet Up.
It has never been a good time to be mentally unwell. Both Pileup and Went-The-Day-Well have done their best, but they are still firing blanks when cordite is called for.