A snapshot of the mental health debate

Mental health is important to Liberal Democrats because it’s instinctive to us to want to break down barriers that hold people back from living the best lives they possibly can. When we see people’s lives blighted, limited and restricted because they can’t access help and support for mental ill health it makes us furious and determined to right it.

This is something that has always driven Nick Clegg. His first major speech as leader was on the subject of mental health and the party has set in train a series of reforms which has made mental health care more accessible and given patients more right. In time, we will no longer have the scandal of someone with a broken leg being treated immediately while a self-harming teenager gets sent home and put on a waiting list which might lead to a year’s wait before even seeing a psychiatrist, let alone receiving any targeted help to alleviate their symptoms.

The party debated a wide ranging motion on mental health this morning. Here are some of the highlights:

Anyone who has supported a teenager through mental ill health would have found Alex White’s speech incredibly moving. She was frank about her own issues, about the waits she’s experienced for treatment. She explained what was wrong with the current system and how we need to fix it:

Lib Dems Mental Health group chair Lee Dargue spoke of his pride in all the party has achieved in government and told of his own experiences with anxiety and depression:

I wouldn’t normally mention clothes, but Sarah Brown’s stunning white and gold dress is worthy of comment. Her speech was another huge highlight of the debate. She was talking very practically about how difficult working life can be if you suffer mental ill health. How do you explain your needs to a manager who just doesn’t get it?

Simon Foster from Birmingham Yardley made an searing speech about how people with suicidal thoughts can be made to wait for help when they need it immediately:

He added that he had had to pay for private counselling to get him through. We should never accept a situation where access to emergency care is dependent on ability to pay.

Mohsin Khan, a psychiatrist, said that he wanted to see service users and mental health professionals have a say on clinical commissioning groups to give them some power in choosing appropriate services.

LGBT+ Lib Dems had put forward an amendment (which was passed) against the use of transgender conversion therapy. Sarah Noble explained why it was necessary, outlining the transphobic social media abuse she had received when standing up for the rights of sex workers. She said that the Liberal Democrats are the only party who accept the equality of transgender people as she asked Conference to support her amendment.

There was massive warmth for Norman Lamb, the minister who has enacted so many positive measures to improve mental health and the culture around it in the NHS. He said:

An important and inspiring debate with the right result. Let’s just hope there are Liberal Democrats around in government in May to continue the good work that has been started. This is more than a one term job.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Conference and News.


  • Daniel Henry 14th Mar '15 - 2:16pm

    “I wouldn’t normally mention clothes, but Sarah Brown’s stunning white and gold dress is worthy of comment. Her speech was another huge highlight of the debate. ”

    White and gold?
    It looks blue and black to me!

    Argh! Here we go again!

  • Simon Foster 15th Mar '15 - 3:51pm

    Thank you for the kind words, Caron, much appreciated.

    Is there any way to watch the Conference on video from Saturday, as it’s possible to see Sunday on video, but not Saturday?

    Many thanks – Simon.

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