New mental health strategy

Mental illness has always been a somewhat taboo subject. Yet 1 in 4 of us will experience some sort of mental health problem in our lifetimes. The first rally I ever helped to organise as an MP in my constituency was to prevent the closure of our local mental health ward at Westmorland General Hospital. You would have thought, with the stigma that surrounds mental health, that turnout would have been fairly low, but on that day back in January 2006 as I marched to save our local mental health services I was joined by over 3000 people. The result was that the ward was saved and today, thanks to the hard work of Liberal Democrat campaigners, we now have a mental health unit that is more than twice the size of the one that we were fighting to save from closure.

The Liberal Democrats have been working tirelessly within the Government to improve quality of care and ease of access to treatment for mental health sufferers. Yesterday the government announced a new ‘Cross-government mental health outcomes strategy for people of all ages’ – a massive win for the Liberal Democrats after some seriously hard work put in by our ministers across the government, in particular health minister Paul Burstow who announced the strategy today but also for Nick Clegg, who has consistently championed the need for better mental health services ever since he entered Parliament.

Included in the strategy is an added investment of £400million which will be used to improve access to treatment that will extend personalised support to 3.2 million people across the country, expand the provision of psychological therapies to children and young people , and will result in 1 million people recovering from them mental health conditions by 2014. It will also in the long run result in over £700million of saving through to the public sector, healthcare, tax and welfare gains.

Previous Governments only paid lip-service to mental health, resulting in it being tagged as the ‘Cinderella’ of health services. But as a result of this strategy, mental health will for the first time be given the same importance as physical health. That is an achievement that all Liberal Democrats can be proud to celebrate. One of the best features of this strategy is the focus on improving mental health treatment and care for young people. A Young Minds survey from Autumn 2010 found that on average three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health disorder and also, that up to half of those who fail to complete secondary school are suffering from mental illness.

By making available additional investment through the Department for Education for an Early Intervention Grant we are bringing together funding for many early intervention and preventative services that involved young people, parents, schools and communities and have been shown to help reduce conduct disorder, improve family relationships and reduce costs to social care, youth justice, education and health systems. And let’s not forget the impact that the pupil premium will also have on directing funding towards the most vulnerable children in society. Through targeting young people aged 14-35 who are coping with their first episodes of psychosis, we will be able to provide the necessary treatment and support to help prevent their conditions from having long term negative effects upon their life and even in some cases help them recover fully.

As a Lib Dem MP who has campaigned long and hard on both a local and national level to improve services available for those who are affected by mental illness this is an extremely proud day. This is a huge Liberal Democrat success and it is important that we recognise this and take the knowledge that we really are making a difference in people’s lives forward with us as we campaign in the run up to the local council, Welsh and Scottish elections.

Tim Farron MP is President of the Liberal Democrats.

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5 Comments

  • So you guarantee no mental health facilities will close as part of the coalition’s cuts agenda?

  • Scotty wrote-
    “So you guarantee no mental health facilities will close as part of the coalition’s cuts agenda?”

    too late, just google ‘cuts+NHS mental health trusts’ or visit http://falseeconomy.org.uk/cuts/sectors/type/health and scroll down to the bottom third of the page.

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