Please write to your MP – Parity of Esteem for Mental and Physical First Aid

Writing a blog on Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) as a 2015 General Election candidate set off a string of events. I was contacted by MHFA England CEO Poppy Jaman and we met to discuss her vision of parity of esteem in mental and physical first aid.

kirsten-johnson-norman-lamb

Several emails and months later, I met with Norman Lamb MP to ask him to consider how we could change the law so that health and safety legislation which referenced First Aid could include mental as well as physical health. Norman was enthusiastic about pursuing this, and wrote to the Department of Work and Pensions, asking for the government to look into amending current First Aid legislation.

Yesterday, on World Mental Health Day, Norman Lamb submitted an Early Day Motion which calls on the government to act to bring parity of esteem to mental and physical first aid, requiring employers to train staff in mental health first aid as they currently do in physical first aid. He also wrote an excellent article in the Guardian outlining the case.

The ramifications are enormous. Were this Early Day Motion to go to ahead, those suffering mental ill health would have people around them who the recognise early warning signs of mental ill health and give support before problems become worse. Those trained in Mental Health First Aid have the confidence to come alongside people experiencing mental ill health and provide immediate help. Requiring Mental Health First Aiders also increases mental health literacy and further destigmatises mental health.

The text to the Early Day Motion is here. Please write/email your MP and ask them to sign Early Day Motion 505. A list of MP contact details is here. A draft letter which you can use is here. We hope all parties will get behind this motion – all of us have mental and physical health, and this improved legislation will affect every person’s well-being.

Legislating for mental health first aid will enable those in the workplace, teachers at schools; staff at universities, key workers in public services, those current physical First Aiders up and down the length and breadth of this country to treat the whole person, mental as well as physical, in whatever health crisis they face. True parity of esteem is still some way off – all health should be inclusive. But until we get there, let’s make sure we include Mental Health First Aid in all first aid training.

* Kirsten Johnson is a Fellow of the Incorporated Society of Musicians. She is an Oxfordshire County Councillor and Day Editor for Lib Dem Voice.

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5 Comments

  • This is great stuff Kirsten. How could we apply this to the party and its duty of care to many thousands of volunteers and staff? Admittedly it was over ten years ago but I found that as a PPC I was made to feel that post-natal depression was deemed to be an inappropriate condition for a candidate when I should have stopped moaning and been out there delivering FOCUS!

  • Kirsten johnson 11th Oct '16 - 11:36am

    Hi Ruth,

    I agree – I am working with another member of English Council on pastoral care/candidate support motion, this could be part of that. But more broadly, having the party incorporate mental health first aid practice would be a very good thing. Email me if you have specific ideas on taking this forward.

    Raising awareness and increasing general mental health literacy is also key.

    Best wishes,

    Kirsten

  • Dear Kirsten,

    Excellent blog thank you. I am totally involved in this issue and want to lobby my MP/
    I tried to do this using the drafted email letter but my MP is The Rt Hon. David Lidington, who is also Leader of the House of Commons and as such has informed me that he is unable to sign. There is no alternative redress, so unfortunately people whose MPs are cabinet ministers have no voice when it comes to EDMs! I really can’t see how that can be democratic. I have made my concerns known!

    Can you offer me any advice on how I can take this forward.

    Best wishes,

    Ann.

  • Kirsten johnson 14th Oct '16 - 9:01am

    Dear Ann,

    Thank you for trying – maybe other readers might have suggestions, but in the first instance perhaps write neighbouring constituency MPs. Can you email me on [email protected] for further discussion?

    Good news is as of this morning there have been 22 MPs signed up – the lobbying is working!

    Best wishes,

    Kirsten

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Oct '16 - 10:18am

    The whole mind/body dichotomy is a false one. Mental illness can cause physical illness and physical illness can cause mental illness.

    I recommend to those who wish to see a change in mind set, from one where body and mind are seen as separate entities to one where an individual is seen and treated holistically, to very readable information on what parity of esteem means.

    ‘ Whole person Care: from rhetoric to reality’. ( achieving parity between mental and physical health)’ A PDF summary is available on the internet.

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