In what is Mental Health Awareness Week, it’s important we talk frankly about mental health. Almost all of us will have a family member or close friend who is currently receiving treatment for, or at some point during the course of their life has suffered from, ill mental health, and yet all too often its crushing, debilitating impact goes unnoticed.
While good progress has been made over the last couple of years, both in tackling the stigma that was frequently associated with mental health, as well as in improving the support services available to individuals – introducing the first ever waiting times for mental health treatment and spending an estimated £11.7 billion a year on related services – more can and must be done. The system is under a huge amount of pressure, access to good quality, timely treatment is inconsistent across the board, and ultimately, too many people continue to slip through the net.
Locally, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust provides excellent support to individuals suffering from a range of illnesses, and just last week was rated as ‘Good’ following its most recent CQC inspection: http://www.cqc.org.uk/provider/RPG. This needs to be replicated elsewhere though, which is why I am delighted that the Prime Minister has announced a future Conservative Government will continue to push for reform to ensure those suffering from mental health problems get the care they deserve. This would include:
- Having 10,000 more staff working in NHS mental health services by 2020, increasing medical training places by 1,500 over the coming years and targeting support in specialities like psychiatry.
- Replacing the flawed 1983 Mental Health Act in its entirety with a new Mental Health Treatment Bill, confronting the discrimination and unnecessary detention that too often takes place. This includes revising the thresholds for detention, implementing new codes of practice to reduce the disproportionate use of mental health detention for minority groups, and introducing safeguards so that when people with mental health problems have the capacity to give or refuse consent, they can never be treated against their will.
- Giving every child access to mental health services, ensuring every primary and secondary school in England and Wales will have staff trained in mental health first aid and a single point of contact with local mental health services. This also includes changes to the curriculum to teach children more about mental wellbeing and reforming Adolescent Mental Health Services so that children can access treatment in their local area.
- Introducing more protection at work for those suffering from mental health problems, amending the Equalities Act to help alleviate discrimination. First aid and needs assessments at work will be required to factor in mental health risks, and it will be compulsory for large organisations to train mental health first-aid responders.
- Guaranteeing funding for helplines, places of safety and crisis cafes. Funding for helplines, such as the Samaritans, will be guaranteed and the £15 million of funding announced by the Prime Minister for community places of safety and crisis cafes will be maintained. We will end the practice where indebted patients are charged up to £150 by their GP for a mental health and debt form to prove their mental ill-health to their creditors.
The Prime Minister has a strong track record in this area while Home Secretary – overseeing a significant drop in the number of people in acute distress who were put in a police cell to undergo assessment – and is the right person to take these excellent initiatives forward. If re-elected on 8 June, I will continue to do all I can to support those suffering from ill mental health, tackle the root causes of mental health problems, and back the proposals outlined above.