On Monday, Theresa May’s announcement about mental health came to precious little in money terms – a mere £15m of additional investment to be precise. This despite the fact that Norman Lamb and others have made it clear that extra money that was earmarked for mental health last year has in fact been used to prop up NHS trusts who are suffering from financial difficulties. Mental health is crying out for more money as Isabel Hardman eloquently writes about in the Telegraph today based on her own experience.
The statistics are clear. Research in 2014 found that one in ten people wait over a year just to get an assessment for a talking therapy, while four in ten wait more than three months. Two thirds told the We Need To Talk coalition that they had become more unwell while waiting, with one in six attempting suicide. In 2014, over 6,000 people died from suicide which is 16 per day. Nobody would be happy to wait three months for a broken leg to be treated or to have to travel 300 miles to see their children for a broken arm. Yet this is precisely the state of mental health in the UK today.
One of the key strategies of this government and its predecessor is its continued attempt to use diversion tactics every time the words NHS and crisis are mentioned in the same sentence. These tactics have included watering down the targets for non-emergency A&E wait times to the more cynical headlines about health tourism or foreign aid budgets being wasted.
Mental health remains the leading cause of work place absence in the UK. If we could really tackle the issues of depression and anxiety head on the economic payback for us would be enormous.
When it comes to mental health of our children we parents also have a role to play by being aware of the risks and issues of exposure to social media at a young age. Some research has even shown that prohibiting the use of mobile phones in schools leads to academic improvements.
It is time for the Prime Minister to realise our nation’s mental health is in clear and present danger and to put her money where her mouth is. However our response to mental health issues needs to be wider – it should not be focused purely on GPs and pills, but a holistic approach to continued wellbeing including diet, exercise, relationships and fulfilment. In this aspect she is right that employers and schools have a bigger role to play too.
* Chris Key is dad of two girls, multilingual and internationalist. Lib Dem member in Twickenham who likes holding local council and MPs to account.