Today, Norman Lamb launched a cross-party campaign for improved funding for mental health services. He was joined by Alistair Campbell and Andrew Mitchell MP, as well as a very impressive list of other politicians, professionals, celebrities, mental health charities and community leaders.
It’s unbelievable that it’s 2015 and there isn’t parity between mental and physical health. They [the government] don’t comprehend that mental illness is a physical problem – it just happens to be your brain which is another organ.
The Equality for Mental Health campaign has a lengthy petition which reads:
We, the undersigned, have joined together to mount a cross-party, cross-society campaign aimed at persuading the Government to help reduce the suffering of those with mental ill health by increasing investment into the provision of mental health services.
As ministers make final decisions on the Spending Review, we urge them to treat mental health equally with physical health. We ask for the same right to timely access to evidence based treatment as those with physical health problems.
We accept, and urge ministers to accept, that this will require additional investment in mental health services. But we are strongly persuaded that sustained investment in mental health services will lead to significant returns for the Exchequer, both by reducing the burden on the NHS through the improved wellbeing of our citizens, and by helping people to stay in, or get back into work.
We note the many comments from ministers and opinion formers acknowledging the huge cost of mental ill health not just to individuals and their families, including veterans of our armed forces, but to the economy as a whole. Some estimates put this cost as high as £100bn a year, spent on visits to A&E, lost jobs, unemployment benefits, homelessness support, police time and even prison places.
So the economic argument for a new approach is clear. And so is the human and moral argument. Because ministers have also accepted that whatever improvements in attitude may have been made in British society, with a greater understanding and awareness of mental ill health, those who experience it still do not get a fair deal from our health services. In effect, they suffer discrimination in our publicly funded NHS. This must be addressed.
The petition has been signed by, amongst many others, Graham Norton, Ade Adepitan, Joanna Lumley, Lenny Henry, Matt Lucas, Miranda Hart, Frank Skinner, Mary Beard, Danny Boyle, Delia Smith, Richard E. Grant, Steve Coogan, Dawn French, Barry Humphries, Annie Lennox and Steve Redgrave. You can add your name to theirs here.
* Mary Reid is the Monday Editor on Lib Dem Voice.