I welcome World Mental Health Awareness Day – it is great that we can celebrate and work together on better mental health for all. However, we need to recognise that fighting for good mental health provision and raising awareness is a 365-day project.
Suicide is the leading cause of death in men under the age of 45. The Government, yesterday, announced a new role, Minister for Suicide Prevention. Suicide is sadly the final stage in what can be a deterioration of mental health. Regular readers will know that I am a Mental Health First Aider, and as such trained to recognise the signs of someone with suicide ideation. It is not an exact science, but at least I know what to watch out for. Picking up warning signs in colleagues, friends, family is key towards helping those who feel life is too bleak to continue.
Mental Health First Aid is being used by more and more workplaces in their health and well-being strategies. Training line-managers and pastoral care officers to recognise the signs of mental ill-health, whether that is stress, anxiety, depression, psychosis or a range of other conditions, is key to early intervention and prevention.
I welcomed Vince Cable’s demand yesterday for transparency over employers’ mental health strategies. He has called upon businesses to publish their mental health strategies, saying that if they don’t do so voluntarily, then the government should legislate to require such disclosure. Vince said:
Businesses must become far more transparent about how they help staff deal with mental health issues. Only 11% of our biggest employers disclose any information on mental health in their annual reports, according to Business in the Community, but to ensure that best practice is shared across industry, improving the workplace for all employees, they all must.
This transparency would also drive standards through competition, and with mental health finally being more openly discussed in society and our schools, it is time workplaces stepped up. If big companies won’t voluntarily disclose this information or produce a thorough, publicly published plan of action, then the government should take heed of the Stevenson/Farmer review and amend legislation to force employers to do so.
Vince also called for the extension of mental health services to 18-25 year olds. Currently, many young people in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services find an abrupt cancellation of care when they turn 18. I agree with Vince that there needs to be proper funding of transitional services that cover that crucial age range of 18-25, when many young people might be leaving home, training at a college, studying at university or entering employment. It is one of the most important times to get mental health care right, as there are so many stressors in a young person’s life at that time.
Children and adolescents face a cliff edge in mental health services when they turn 18. There has been a hugely positive response to this proposal from the mental health experts I have addressed this week.
Our current system means teenagers are having to face the major life changes of leaving home, going to university and starting their first jobs without the mental health support they need.
That is why the Liberal Democrats would ensure all young people can access Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services up to the age of 25, rather than 18 or 16. A joined up service to the age of 25 would support young people through the major transitions of life.
Under the sterling work of former Minister of Health Norman Lamb MP, Lib Dems have led the way on championing parity of esteem for mental health. Let’s continue to fight for mental health provision and funding, relentlessly, 365 days a year.
* Kirsten Johnson is the PPC for North Devon and Day Editor of Lib Dem Voice.