I want us to employ the power of government as a force for good to transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society” – Prime Minister Theresa May
The Prime Minister said that: “For too long mental illness has been something of a hidden injustice in our country, shrouded in a completely unacceptable stigma and dangerously disregarded as a secondary issue to physical health. Yet left unaddressed, it destroys lives, it separates people from each other and deepens the divisions within our society. Changing this goes right to the heart of our humanity; to the heart of the kind of country we are, the values we share, the attitudes we hold and our determination to come together and support each other.”
On her plans, the Prime Minister added: “I want us to employ the power of government as a force for good to transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society, and at every stage of life.
“What I am announcing are the first steps in our plan to transform the way we deal with mental illness in this country at every stage of a person’s life: not in our hospitals, but in our classrooms, at work and in our communities.
“This starts with ensuring that children and young people get the help and support they need and deserve – because we know that mental illness too often starts in childhood and that when left untreated, can blight lives, and become entrenched.”
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity Sane, welcomed the Prime Minister’s recognition that the issue was a priority but added: “Mrs May’s emphasis on stigma, without commitment to ring-fenced money, will not bring the hoped for revolution in mental health care.
“As she speaks, psychiatric beds are being closed, the patients who contact Sane are turned away from A&E, have no place to go in crisis or are shunted hundreds of miles across the country to obtain treatment.”
“Mrs May’s emphasis on stigma, without commitment to ring-fenced money, will not bring the hoped for revolution in mental health care. – Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity Sane
The plans aim to make mental health an everyday concern for every bit of the system, helping ensure that no one affected by mental ill-health goes unattended, the Government website says. It includes:
In 2014 mental health conditions affected almost 1 in 5 of all working-age people and around 1 in 7 of people in full-time employment. In the workplace 18 million days were lost to sickness absence caused by mental health conditions in 2015 at a cost of around £9 billion a year to employers – gov.uk
Yesterday’s announcements build on improvements to mental health support since 2010. The government says it is currently investing more in mental health than ever before – spending an estimated £11.7 billion a year and has already legislated to give mental and physical health equal priority in law.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, the mental health charity, said: “It’s important to see the Prime Minister talking about mental health and shows how far we have come in bringing the experiences of people with mental health problems up the political agenda. Mental health should be at the heart of government, and at the heart of society and communities – it’s been on the periphery for far too long.
“We welcome the announcements around a focus on prevention in schools and workplaces and support for people in crisis. The proof will be in the difference it makes to the day-to-day experience of the 1 in 4 who will experience a mental health problem this year. Mental health is everyone’s business and we need to see sustained leadership to make sure services and support improve for all of us with mental health problems. Having been neglected for decades, we need to see it made a priority for decades to come to make sure everyone with mental health problems can live the life they want to lead.”
Sir Ian Cheshire, Chairman of the Heads Together campaign, said: “The Prime Minister’s announcements today are extremely important and very welcome, as they show both a willingness to tackle the broad challenge of mental health support and a practical grasp of how to start making a real difference.
“As the chair of Heads Together, an alliance of charity and corporate partners committed to changing the national conversation on mental health, I would urge all involved in the sector to collaborate and build on these initiatives.”
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “This is a puny response to a burning injustice and an attempt to cover up for this government’s failure to deliver on promised investment for children’s mental health.
“I welcome the fact the Prime Minister is addressing the issue of mental health and the focus on schools and employment is right.
“But measures to improve mental health care in schools were already agreed during coalition, and the current government has failed to ensure the investment needed to implement them has got through.”