Publication Date01 Jun 2006
AuthorLynne Friedli
SubjectHealth & social care
Lynne Friedli
2journal of public mental health
vol 5 • issue 2
‘The young lieutenant of a small Hungarian
detachment in the Alps sent a reconnaissance
unit into the icy wilderness. The unit did not
return. The lieutenant suffered, fearing that he
had dispatched his own people to death. But on
the third day the unit came back. Where had
they been? “We considered ourselves lost and
waited for the end. And then one of us found a
map in his pocket. We pitched camp, lasted out
the snowstorm and with the map discovered our
bearings.” Having a goodlook at the map, the
lieutenant discovered to his astonishment that it
was not a map of the Alps, but a map of the
‘This incident raises the intriguing possibility
that when you are lost, any old map will do…
extended to the issue of strategy,maybe when
you are confused, any old strategic plan will do.’
(Weick, 1995: 54)
If Weick’s recounting of this story might serve
as a parable of our times, it also prompts
reflection on the recent proliferation of maps
intended to guide us to happiness or well-being
(Layard, 2005a; Huppert et al,2005; Marks &
Shah, 2004; Seligman, 2003). No doubt this is part
of what Ilona Kickbusch has described as ‘the
wellness revolution’, in which the biotechnology
industry argues that health is a human right and ‘we
now meet [health] everywhere, primarily as a
product’ (Kickbusch, 2006). Health has also, of
course, become a moral imperative.
As far as mental health is concerned, a discourse
that was once largely confined to psychology
journals or the annals of philosophy has now entered
the mainstream. The causes and consequences of,
and solutions to, national unhappiness are triggering
cross-party political debate (New Statesman, 2006)
and occupying prime time television (see, for
example, the BBC2 series The Happiness Formula
(Easton, 2006)). These questions are even
influencing investment in mental health services: it
was in response to a call by Richard Layard1for
1Professor of economics at the London School of Economics and author of Happiness: towards a new science and two reports on the economics of tackling
common mental disorders through new investment in psychology services (Layard, 2005b; 2006).
greater investment in access to CBT talking
treatments (Layard, 2005b; 2006) that secretary of
state for health Patricia Hewitt earlier this summer
announced pilot sites in Doncaster and Newham to
provide ‘real, tangible evidence of the effectiveness
of talking therapies’ and, somewhat less credibly,
to ‘break the cycle of deprivation’ (Department
of Health, 2006). Scotland of course has its own
centre dedicated to the pursuit of happiness
It is certainly a litmus test of the roadworthiness
of a new idea when a prime minister in waiting takes
it on board. David Cameron has made clear that he
believes ‘improving happiness is of the utmost
importance’. Furthermore, as he told the Google
Zeitgeist Europe conference on 22 May this year: ‘We
should also acknowledge a vital truth, that the
pursuit of wealth is no longer – if it ever was – enough
to meet people’s deepest hopes and aspirations.’
Perhaps less unexpectedly,well-being and the
pursuit of happiness are also central themes in the
Church of England’s new report Faithful Cities,
which revisits the question of theological responses
to poverty and inequality that so provoked the Tory
government in 1985 (General Synod). Faithful
Cities offers a stringent critique of the current
government’s failure to seriously reduce inequalities,
pointing out that the gap between rich and poor in
the UK is one of the highest in Europe (based on
2001 figures), and says:
‘While the churches will continue to work in
partnership with government, civil society,
business and other faiths, they will be
increasingly critical of theories and practices
based purely on economics. They will also seek
alternatives for the sake of the common good.
The Church has firsthand, daily experience
of the damage caused by severe poverty and
inequality. Equally, the Church has firsthand
experience of how significant wealth does
not translate into significant happiness’
(Commission on Urban Life and Faith, 2006).
©Pavilion Publishing (Brighton) Ltd

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