As Labour’s shadow mental health minister, I am passionate about seeing improvements across our mental health services. These are some of the issues I’ve been highlighting in Parliament in recent weeks.
World Mental Health Day
On World Mental Health Day, the Health Secretary was shamefully forced to acknowledge National Audit Office findings that two thirds of young people will still be denied the treatment they need even if his government’s proposals are delivered as planned.
Voices across the mental health sector including the Children’s Commissioner, the former government health minister Norman Lamb, and the government’s former mental health tsar Natalie Devon, are crying out for more funding and resources to tackle the crisis in mental health services.
It’s blindingly obvious to all that this issue needs action beyond the headlines and the publicity – proper investment is essential if we have any hope of providing mental health services that people can access locally, when they need them.
Eating Disorders debate
I was proud to close the debate on Eating Disorders this week in my role as shadow mental health minister. The debate focussed on stigma associated with eating disorders – a serious mental illnesses affecting 1.25million people in the UK and anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Yet currently someone with an eating disorder will wait an average of 3 and a half years before receiving treatment.
No blame can be attached to NHS staff for this, but to the way the service is run. The problems in the NHS have not come about overnight – they are problems that the government knew would happen but have chosen to ignore.
Mental Health at Work
I was also glad to close another Westminster Hall debate on the financial effect of absence from work due to mental health problems. For the 1 in 4 people who will experience mental health issues, there are serious consequences for all areas of their lives – including at work.
Whilst the horrendous human cost of the failure of our mental health services is incalculable, figures can be put on the financial cost for tax payers, SME’s, and jobs lost can be measured – with a total annual cost to the UK economy of our mental health crisis an eye watering £99bn.
Given people spend on average 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, the Government must ensure that employers prioritise health and well-being in their workplaces.
While the government have “talked a big talk” when it comes to tackling mental health, little has actually been done, and government economic policies have had a direct impact on workers’ mental health. Austerity measures have impacted greatly on insecure workers, such as low earners and the self-employed, and I question the government’s engagement with tackling precarious work conditions.
The overriding problem is, mental health services are still reeling from years of under-funding. It’s high time this Government put their money where their mouth is and fund our mental health services properly.