Paul Burstow MP writes: Mental health, no excuses

Over the past few days Channel Four has been highlighting mental health with its #4goesmad series of programmes. With the aim of debunking the myths and stigma surrounding mental health, they are well worth a watch.

I watched both Ruby Wax and Jon Richardson programmes.  Both told powerful and compelling stories  of people coming to terms with their mental health and talking openly about it often for the first time. One such moment was when a successful chef told his restaurant staff that he had, quite recently, contemplated suicide. Getting this confession out into the open was a symbol of that man’s bravery and a sign that it’s good to talk about mental health.

In fact, talking about mental health in public is a step more and more people (and politicians are taking in order to bring mental health out into the open. I was very moved during a recent Parliamentary debate on mental health by the number of MPs willing to talk about their mental health. And it’s so important that this happens in every walk of life.

There are many shocking statistics on mental health – take the one that life expectancy for those with a mental disorder is on average 20 years less for men and 15 years less for women, for example. To put it bluntly, by not tackling mental health we are cutting people’s lives short.

But since our party has been in Government we have made great strides towards putting mental health right at the top of people’s agendas. It’s a policy area that many in our party are passionate about getting right, and we should be proud that in just 18 months we have:

  •  Launched a national mental health strategy backed by a £400m investment in psychological therapies for one million adults,
  • £32m into talking therapies for children and young people,
  • Ensured that by next year, four million under-19s will have access to improved CAMHS,
  • Secured Government funding for the successful nationwide Time to Change mental health campaign,
  • Invested £7.2 million to ensure the best treatment possible for veterans with mental health problems.

Indeed, this week Nick Clegg and I announced the Government’s mental health implementation framework – not perhaps the sexiest sounding title for something full of really exciting stuff. Essentially it’s a ‘no excuses’ action plan  for employers, schools, businesses, housing organisations, voluntary groups, councils and the NHS. It’s all part of our effort to promote good mental health, parity of esteem with physical health and to banish stigma. And it’s starting to take effect. The evidence so far has shown that we have increased the number of people receiving treatment and reduced the number on sick pay and benefits – both a health and economic success.

Produced in partnership with the major mental health charities, NHS confederation and crucially with service users it is a genuine piece of co-production which we are all sign up to working together to deliver.

Ultimately, with Liberal Democrats taking the lead on this issue we are starting to see fewer excuses and more solutions for the one in four of us who will experience mental health issues at some point in our lives.

* Paul Burstow is Liberal Democrat candidate for Sutton and Cheam and was the MP until the dissolution of Parliament on 30th March.

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  • local gvt worker 27th Jul '12 - 11:59am

    this is really good- the focus on mental health that the liberal democrats have pushed in this government is one of the main reasons, for me, why i am proud the lib dems are there. credit to burstow and nick clegg, who has consistently called for better treatment of mental health from his early days as leader.

  • Simon Bamonte 27th Jul '12 - 5:34pm

    This news is welcome, but it is also a bit hypocritical of Clegg and Burstow. Many people with very serious mental health issues are being found fit for work by the calamity that is the ATOS WCA assessments, where mental illness is often not taken into account and when it is, only in a rudimentary way. These tests, which are not fit for purpose (according to the BMA), are actually harming people with mental illnesses up and down the country and there have , sadly, been suicides by mentally ill people who the DWP and ATOS are finding “fit for work” against the evidence provided by their GPs and consultants. It is hypocritical of Clegg and Burstow to praise this scheme and say mental health needs more focus, while still going on C4 News like Clegg did to praise ATOS and say people should respect the process they use.

    If there are “no excuses” when it comes to mental health, why are Clegg and Burstow still supporting ATOS and the not fit for purpose WCA? It’s a case of one eye open, one eye closed.

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