Opinion: Debate around mental health must be in the political mainstream

On Monday Ed Miliband made a speech to the Royal College of Psychiatrists concerning the taboo surrounding mental illness. He spoke about the devastating human and economic consequences of failing to address the under- provision in mental health treatment and promised that, amongst other things, a Labour Government would re-write the constitution of the NHS in order to address this under provision.

In my previous post on this website I wrote about the motion concerning mental health which was passed at the Lib Dems autumn conference in Brighton.

I mentioned how I go through good and bad days with my own anxiety and depression problems and why the passing of the motion had reaffirmed my faith in my membership of the Lib Dems.

I am writing this article because I have just been through one of those bad spells and I wanted to get these words down – partly because writing helps me – but mainly because I want to describe the importance of this issue from a personal perspective while it is still fresh in my mind.

This afternoon I had a severe onset of anxiety and panic – breaking down, becoming paranoid and despondent, and feeling completely desolate and miserable. I spent a couple of hours lying in bed and trying to sleep – even though I knew that this was not the thing I should be doing. Such are the effects of mental illness.

I am slowly beginning to realise that these are just phases which will pass in time, but that hardly makes them any easier to cope with.

Ed Miliband was quite correct in what he said on Monday but, not for the first time, the Lib Dems have beaten him to it. The majority of what he said was either included in the September conference motion or was covered by the fantastic speakers who were called to speak during the debate – including of course Lib Dem Health Minister Norman Lamb MP.

This is, however, an issue which is too important to be subject to the usual party political snipping. As we know failure to help people with mental illness has a devastating economic impact on the NHS and also affects one in four people in the population.

It is doubtful that there are many more issues which are as widely relevant as this, because we are talking of an issue, which will have affected almost everybody you speak to when campaigning on the doorstep or during the course of a casual conversation.

So, alongside the other Lib Dem achievements in Government, why not tell people about the work Norman Lamb and Paul Burstow have been doing in Government and about the motion adopted by the party at conference? Chances are either they will either have suffered themselves or they will know someone who has.

Raising awareness of the impacts of mental illness is not only the right thing to do but it has surely never been more important.

* Tim Purkiss is a party member from Somerset and blogs at Nation Discussion

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  • This is an issue that is deeply important and personal to me.

    Our current mental health services are grossly inadequate and it is failing millions of people across the country.

    I have been diagnosed with having
    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (DSM.IV 309.81)
    Primary Insomnia (DSM.IV 307.42)
    Major Depressive Illness (DSM.IV 296.2)
    Anxiety Disorder: Panic disorder with agoraphobia (DSM.IV 300.21)

    Or in more simple terms, Clinically depressed.

    For the last 16 years, I have been off and on CBT therapy and CAT therapy.

    However, since 2008 I have been forced to fund my own therapy privately, which is expensive and is a struggle at times to be honest.

    My last lot of therapy funded by the “NHS” ended in 2008 despite my therapist at the times objection to her department. However, her hands were tied because of the lack of “resources” and high demand for services and a long list of patients waiting for Cognitive behavioural therapy. These services are rationed and as a rule patients are only giving between 12-20 sessions of CBT.

    So, I had no option but to start funding my own therapy.
    Even my own G.P thinks this is totally wrong and unfair, and in his words not mine, Unfortunately his hands are tied, he is not able to send me for another referral {unless} I made another attempt on my own life {or} unless I was out in public behaving in a manor that was either a danger to myself or others.
    Personally, I don’t want to get into the state again where I am a danger to myself or others and that’s the whole point of me having weekly therapy in the first place. But hey-ho, that’s the reality of the situation and the reason that I pay privately for therapy.

    Our whole attitude towards mental health needs to change, there is a drastic need for more services and better understanding of patients needs.

    If it was not for my DLA it would be impossible for me to fund my own therapy privately and that scares the daylights out of me , especially when all we hear and see is the cuts to disability benefits, but that’s another story.

  • “Ed Miliband was quite correct in what he said on Monday but, not for the first time, the Lib Dems have beaten him to it. ”

    Perhaps surprisingly, this was conceded by Alistair Campbell on Radio 5 this week where he stated clearly that Nick Clegg had raised the issues prior to Milliband. Hope for a non partisan approach indeed…..

  • Richard Dean 1st Nov '12 - 2:32am

    I wonder why mental health is a difficult issue? Why is it a bit of a taboo? One possible reason may be that people don’t know how to fix it – as stories in this thread seem to suggest. But depression is far from the only illness, and it’s one whose boundaries are a bit unclear – it’s normal to be depressed sometimes. Perhaps our ritualistic society defines “healthy” in a rather simplistic way, making people feel vulnerable and anxious about their own health, and so unwilling to recognize the subject? Perhaps we have traditionally addressed mental health through art rather than through science? And perhaps that is the best way – science can sometimes seems so rigid and limiting and even shallow and inappropriately certain. Issues of trust and distrust of motivations may also play a part?

  • For me the problem lays with how differently we treat people with physical ailments and mental ailments.

    I can only talk from personal experience and the treatments and ongoing treatments I receive through the NHS.

    Along with my mental health issues that I have posted earlier. I also suffer from Ulcerated Colitis, and for that because it is an ongoing illness that can not be “cured” but can be “managed” I have regular appointments with a specialist at the Gastroenterology department, where I have reviews, of my current medications a and I also have to endure some pretty intrusive examinations at times.
    As I stated previously this is not the case with my mental health issues. The NHS has left me to being treated by my G.P, who does see me regularly and issues my prescriptions, however, his area of expertise is not in mental health. {I am not knocking my G.P, as I have a really good relationship with him, as he has known me and my case for many years now and is extremely supportive. But as I said previously, I am forced to pay privately for my therapy to deal with the mental health issues that I have.
    Surely that can not be right?

    If we don’t ration “specialist” services for physical ailments for patients with ongoing medical conditions, why do we ration them for mental health?

  • John Carlisle 1st Nov '12 - 10:29am

    The biggest contribution we can make to mental health is to give many, many more people jobs. Prevention is always better than cure.

  • @John Carlisle

    I do not see how you think your suggestion would help prevent people from suffering from mental health issues.

    Unless of course what you meant when you said “give many, many more people jobs. ” was to train and employ more people in mental health therapy and expanding resources to provide better treatment. But I am not sure that is what you where suggesting.

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