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Liberal Democrats mark World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day.

For me it’s a day to reflect on how far we have come since I started to suffer from mental ill health as a child. Forty years ago, nobody understood the desperate, isolating, all-engulfing Depression that I couldn’t shake off, that took every ounce of my energy just to get through the day. I remember trying to talk about it to a friend once, and she scared the living daylights out of me, telling me I’d be locked up in a hospital if anyone found out.

There was the exhausting anxiety which punctuated every day – not helped by the fact that round every corner there might be another bully lurking to shout “Yak” at me. That’s what they called me at school. I just wish I’d had Google then to reassure me that, whatever my tormentors meant, these beasts were actually kind of cute.

My teens were a struggle and because I didn’t get the help I needed, I either didn’t cope very well or developed some fairly unhelpful strategies to deal with it. Comfort eating for one.

We can perhaps be a little bit proud of ourselves as a society that four decades on, we are at least attempting to tackle the stigma around mental health, so that no young person need fear that they are going to be locked up.

However, we should also be ashamed that this new openness has not been accompanied by the provision of sufficient support services for people with mental ill health.

There is one area I want to focus on – the transition from child to adult mental health services. Once you get into the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, you can actually get some pretty reasonable support. It’s arranged in a fairly logical way with consultants, psychologists and nurses working together to support young people. Unfortunately not every young person who needs help can get it at all, and most have to wait far too long.  It is not uncommon to wait for more than a year to even see a specialist.

Mental health issues generally aren’t resolved overnight, so you have a year of turmoil while you are waiting to be seen and, maybe another couple of years of reasonably intensive support – and then you turn 18. All the effort put into helping you is now at risk as you are put into the virtually non-existent twilight world of adult mental health services which are disparate, insufficient and as suitable for the scale of the problem as  trying to surf the Atlantic on a My Little Pony lilo.

This country is being robbed of the talents of some wonderful individuals simply because it does not invest in the services they need to stay well.

Even the most cruel and heartless government should surely recognise that the cost of not supporting these people is enormous to both our economy and our society.

I’m incredibly proud that Nick Clegg and Norman Lamb have done so much to improve mental health services and tackle the stigma around mental health. One of the most horrible things about the run-up to the 2015 election was the almost certain knowledge that Norman wouldn’t be mental health minister any more.

Today, Liberal Democrats have been marking Mental Health Day in a variety of ways:

Kirsty Williams made this video highlighting mental ill health in the workplace:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 1 Comment

Jo Swinson’s message for Pride 2017: Love Happens here

Here is Deputy Leader Jo Swinson’s message for Pride 2017. The text is below:

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 3 Comments
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