For Mental Health Awareness Week, let’s remember Mill’s mantra and campaign for better wellbeing measures

We are living in a time that’s taking its toll on different people in different ways. And we have required changes in our approach to contend with this new reality. Now more than ever, I find myself reflecting on JS Mill’s mantra, that “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.”

My modern interpretation of this philosophy is that we should be considering wellbeing metrics and indicators in all Government decisions and policymaking. And, if a policy would worsen people’s wellbeing, it should be dropped.

It’s time to make our mental health a priority, in the same way that we’ve protected the physical health of our communities. Over the last fifteen years, we have seen smoking bans, the introduction of ultra-low emission zones and widespread information campaigns on the healthiness of food and drink products, including traffic light labelling. It is long overdue for the Government to take more responsibility for the impact of political decisions on people’s wellbeing.

Last September, Jo announced that our party wanted to put wellbeing at the front and centre of our agenda. We shared a vision of how a Liberal Democrat Government would adopt the policies which have been so successful in New Zealand. Some tabloids and right-wing media mocked the idea of a ‘Minister for Happiness,’ which sounded ridiculous to them. But it doesn’t to me, not at all.

The last two months have been unlike any other. Our communities have rallied around their most vulnerable, and though many of us are isolated, we are not alone. Being kind to one another is something that we are all capable of. And I believe that the Government should ensure that none of its policies negatively impact on the mental health or morale of the population.

Mental Health Awareness Week provides us with a great platform in which to discuss levels of happiness in our society. But these necessary discussions should not be limited to these contextual moments in which poor mental health amongst our population is momentarily acknowledged.

Prioritising people’s wellbeing in the long-term shows that they matter. And happier people are more productive, living healthier and longer lives. As Liberal Democrats, I know that we all share these principles, and all have great ideas to contribute that have wellness at their heart, with the simple aim of improving people’s lives. That’s why I got into politics and why I want to continue hearing from all of you.

Together we can campaign for wellbeing and mental health to always be considered at the highest level, and we can point this floundering Conservative Government in the direction of kindness.

* Layla Moran is the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon

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8 Comments

  • Daniel Duggan 19th May '20 - 12:43pm

    Given that Mill suffered two nervous breakdowns during his lifetime I am sure he would agree with this focus on mental health. However, I do wonder what he would make of the statement: ”It is long overdue for the Government to take more responsibility for the impact of political decisions on people’s wellbeing”. He did, after all, also write that “A state which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes–will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished.”

    Although Mill was recused from his mental health issues by reading Wordsworth, to improve happiness it is crucial people get more control over their own lives, perhaps especially in the place where they spend so much of their time: the workplace. It’s interesting how people are fervent democrats when it comes to the running of the state, but often their democratic sympathies desert them in the case of workplaces.

  • Paul Pettinger 19th May '20 - 12:52pm

    Domestic violence can have a devastating impact. In regards to upholding human well-being, are you going to communicate that domestic violence is wrong? I am very concerned that you have not yet done so.

  • David Warren 19th May '20 - 12:59pm

    Mental illness can be crippling as I can personally testify.

    The situation at the moment is that medical professionals are in many cases not doing much beyond proscribing medication and referring you onto counselling services. Access to counselling services can mean a long wait, in my case several months and won’t it is finished you are on your own.

    I wish our party leaders who speak to those like me who have suffered to inform future policy for change.

  • Chronic depression is not simply a case of being sad. It is a complex disease that is still far from understood. In this lock down I have been reading Joachim Radkau’s biography of Max Weber. In it there is a chapter on Weber’s descent into hell. Still in today’s world there are those who have to undergo years of suffering due to a lack of help and understanding.

  • Norman Lamb has remained closely involved with Mental Health campaigning as taken up the position of Chair of the CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE’S MENTAL HEALTH COALITION
    https://www.cypnow.co.uk/news/article/norman-lamb-to-chair-children-and-young-people-s-mental-health-coalition alongside his role as chair of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.
    Norman said “I know from my time in the field that mental health is affected by so many factors. We need decision makers, statutory bodies, families and the voluntary sector all working together for our children and young people.”

    “That’s why I’m so excited to be able to chair the coalition, working across the sector. It’s never been more important to make sure that we are co-operating, collaborating and innovating to ensure that all children and young people’s mental health is prioritised.”

    The coalition said the appointment came at a “very difficult” time for society with children and young people significantly affected by the coronavirus crisis. Not only have their lives, education and support systems been disrupted, they also don’t know when anything will be back to normal.”

  • Removing the stigma of mental illness is of great importance. Those that have suffered should not have to face years of discrimination when it comes to employment. Having a worthwhile job is something that greatly contributes to well being and recovery.

  • A final point is the treatment of mental illness. Prescribing drugs may sound fine in theory but as these complex diseases are not fully understood medications can be ineffective. Indeed those with acute cases go to early graves as a result of taking for years drugs that are in fact dangerous.

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