LibLink: Norman Lamb MP – My son’s struggle with OCD showed me the unfairness people with mental illness face

Norman Lamb has been much in the news this week, having launched a cross-party campaign for mental health to be treated equally with physical health across the health service. Norman has written a piece for the Guardian drawing on themes that will be familiar to party members from his excellent conference speech earlier this year.

Here’s an excerpt:

When our oldest son, Archie, was 16, he was clearly very unhappy. He eventually told us just how distressed and troubled he had become. We got a referral to our local children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) and a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder followed.

Archie has subsequently revealed that he’d had disturbing thoughts for two or three years prior to finally talking about it. It is hard to imagine how tough it must be for a teenager, struggling to understand what is happening to them and yet too embarrassed to talk about it. I still remember Archie asking us: “Why am I the only one who’s going mad?” This is really difficult for a teenager to grasp.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be an incredibly disabling condition – rated as one of the top 10 debilitating illnesses by the World Health Organisation. It is often unhelpfully trivialised. People talk about being “a bit OCD” – keeping things in order, obsessive about tidiness, or checking things. But the real illness is very different.

Affecting about 2% of the world’s population, it involves persistent and unwanted disturbing thoughts and fears. These fears are often completely irrational – perhaps that you could kill someone. The sufferer tries to escape from them through compulsions or rituals. Just imagine going through that as you struggle with growing up.

The response from CAMHS was supportive, and Archie did receive treatment. But sadly the condition stubbornly persisted. He was put on medication, but it seemed to have little effect. We later discovered that the dose prescribed was at a level which would have no effect on OCD.

We tried again to get Archie referred for cognitive behaviour therapy. By this time he was eligible for adult services and we were told that the wait would be up to six months – despite his condition being “moderate to severe”. We felt desperate. We couldn’t wait. You do what you can for your child. We paid for treatment. But I am acutely aware that this isn’t an option for very many people. This is intolerable.

Norman concludes:

So my plea to the government is this: respond to our campaign. Provide the extra investment in this spending review. The impact on the wellbeing of our country could be profound and the government will find that it saves money in the long run. An approach which focuses on intervening early, stopping the deterioration of conditions, aiming for recovery and getting people back to work is not only the right thing to do; it will reap dividends for the government – and help families all over the country like mine.

You can read his full article here.

* Nick Thornsby is a day editor at Lib Dem Voice.

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  • “getting people back to work”
    A lot of people with serious mental health problems found that they were pushed into dead end jobs such as unskilled factory work. It would be good if these people were allowed to reach their full potential.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Nov '15 - 1:50pm

    At Prime Minister’s Questions on 4/11/2015 Speaker Bercow called Norman Lamb MP and quietened the noise by saying “I want to hear this question”.
    David Cameron departed from his usual mantra and thanked Norman Lamb for the work he had done in coalition.
    Speaker Bercow then called Tory MP Andrew Mitchell, who continued on the same issue.
    The promises on spending on mental health should be kept. The PM, rather sheepishly, seemed to want to. Let us hope that the Chancellor was also listening attentively.
    Labour’s Alistair Campbell is also supportive, but is not an MP.
    This is perhaps a watershed. The debates over tax credits show where we stand now, so we can talk about the achievements of the 2010-2015 parliament more calmly.

  • Any chance of getting an article/interview covering Adrian Sanders work on Diabetes in parliament? Not as fashionable as mental health and he didnt have a ministerial limo but its a really devastating set of diseases.

  • Sadie Smith 6th Nov '15 - 11:48am

    Grateful to Archie Lamb for illustrating the problem.
    And yes, it would be a good idea to pick up Adrian’s work on diabetes.
    And quite a few good things done in Government but purloined by Tories.

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