On Saturday, I was invited to a Healthy Minds Service event in Oldham which aimed to promote awareness and understanding of mental health issues. Congratulations to the team as it was a very useful event and and there was so much information and support available on the many different stalls that had been set up on the day.
I very much welcomed this important event highlighting mental health issues as 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health condition sometime in our lives and yet there is still a stigma associated with mental health problems.
There is real concern around mental health issues as since 2012, there has been an increase in suicide rates for men after decades when it had been falling. People from BAME communities in the UK are also more likely to experience mental health issues and are more likely to be hospitalised.
We must also be mindful of how Government policies can also affect the mental health of the public. Last year a report was published that estimated 590 additional suicides were associated with the Government’s Work Capability Assessment process. You can read more about this report here.
It is clear that timely access to mental health services is very important as early intervention is key for recovery and to help people stay in work.
Across the country all health services are under enormous pressure but this is especially so for mental health services which have already been seriously underfunded for decades. In spite of Coalition Government legislating for ‘parity of esteem’ for mental health services with physical health services, in practice 2014/15 Government cut mental health budget by 8% (£600m), spending 13% of NHS budget on mental health although 23% of burden of disease. This 8% cut in real terms comes at the same time as demands for mental health services have risen by 20%.
Labour’s report The Mentally Healthy Society recognised the inequalities in mental health and mental health services and agreed action to address this through resourcing, culturally appropriate diagnostic tools and interventions, e.g. for Post Natal Depression. The National Policy Forum has just launched engagement process to make sure future policies reflect communities’ needs and you can contribute to this here.
We will continue to hold Government to account not just on mental health service provision but also the other national policies, e.g. social security, which have an impact on mental health.