Tag Archives: mental health

Norman Lamb: My job was to give people a voice

The thing I was most scared about during the 2015 election was not having Norman Lamb as a Minister any more. He had done so much for mental health and I was worried that some Tory (because I feared they would win) would just undo all his work.

A House of Commons without Norman in it is a poorer place. Yesterday he gave his valedictory speech in the Commons, and he talked about how important it was for politicians to give those without power a voice and change the system to give them power.

Norman, all the very best with whatever you do in the future. We have not always agreed, but you have been one of the best Government Ministers I can remember. Your compassion and understanding towards mental health and those who suffer mental ill health was an example we should all seek to follow. Thank you.

I very much endorse the remarks of the right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir David Lidington) about the nature of our political discourse and the importance of treating each other with courtesy and respect.

The right hon. Member for Derbyshire Dales (Sir Patrick McLoughlin) talked about the truths that he was told by his wife in private and the very own special relationship that he had with his wife. I want to start by thanking my partner for life, my wife Mary, and our two sons Archie and Ned for the support that they have given me throughout the 18-plus years I have been in this place. There is no doubt that the work that we do here takes its toll on our families and our loved ones. We always have to remember that and acknowledge the enormous sacrifices that loved ones make as we try to do our work here.

I also want to thank my amazing parliamentary staff, in my constituency and in Parliament, who have shown such loyalty and dedication to me over so many years. I thank the Lib Dem party activists in North Norfolk who have shown me enormous loyalty throughout the time that I have fought there. I have spent 29 years campaigning in North Norfolk because it took me 11 years to beat that lot over there to win my seat the first place. So many people have stuck with me through that period, and I am enormously grateful for it.​

I thank the teams that have supported me in my role as Chair of the Science and Technology Committee and during the time that I was privileged enough to be a Minister of State in the Department of Health. Everyone will understand that, as a Liberal, I did not imagine for one minute that I would become a Minister, and then suddenly I found myself responsible for something that I cared a lot about in the Department of Health. It was the most invigorating time of my professional life, but it was made possible by amazing people who showed great dedication and commitment in supporting me through that journey.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 4 Comments

Vince, Luciana and Norman write about mental health

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. Three of our MPs wrote articles on different aspects of mental health.

Vince Cable wrote for Times Red Box (£) about his mother’s post natal depression and the impact on their family.

When I was aged ten, shortly after my brother was born, my mother had a breakdown. She had to go into a mental health unit for the best part of a year. My brother was fostered. When she returned from hospital a year later, she was somewhat better, but her confidence had been shattered.

Today it is still young mothers, or children and young people, who because of the underlying problems in mental health services, are often those who are struggling to get help. Even generally, over half of adults with a diagnosed mental health problem have to wait four weeks to see a specialist. These long waiting times can only make the mental health crisis worse.

And what did he learn about what helps people to recover?

One of the things that really helped my mother improve, both in terms of her mental health and in terms of confidence, was adult education.

Engaging with others, having a supportive structure, did wonders for her wellbeing. That is why the Liberal Democrats will deliver mental health support, not just through the NHS but through communities and throughout society.

By creating a reward scheme for employers who invest in the mental wellbeing of their employees, restoring funding of ‘early help’ services that were cut by the Conservatives, and improving training for health professionals in spotting signs of postnatal depression, the Liberal Democrats will deliver better mental health support for everyone, and ensure help is there before problems becomes crises.

Luciana Berger has long campaigned on mental health issues. For Rethink Mental Illness, she wrote about suicide prevention at a strategic and an individual level:

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 1 Comment

World mental health day is tomorrow

The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day on 10 October every year. This year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is suicide prevention.

The Mental Health Foundation are encouraging people to share the infographic above. There is much relevant information on their website, including the list below of ways to get help.

Posted in News | 3 Comments

7 October 2019 – the overnight press release

Cable: Psychiatric vacancies demand annual workforce plan

Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary Vince Cable has called for the Secretary of State for Health to produce an annual workforce plan following a report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists which reveals one in ten consultant psychiatric roles are unfilled.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary Vince Cable said:

With children not accessing treatment and with psychiatrists under huge amounts of pressure due to staff shortages, the Conservative Government does not have a grip on the serious situation in mental health services.

Today’s survey is another example of how the Conservatives plans for the NHS are fundamentally

Posted in News | Also tagged | Leave a comment

I now know I have PTSD and it is Liberating

I am not quite sure when I first encountered the ‘Black Dog’ but he has pretty much been on the premises for the last ten years. The crash as I like to call it came on 9th October 2009 when the pressures of a full-time job and caring finally took their toll. I remember waking at 3 am, not normal for the heavy sleeper that I always was back then. A trip to the GP surgery, anti-depressants and eventually counselling followed. On Christmas Eve 2010 my employment situation was finally resolved with a redundancy package and with the caring position fairly stable I began the process of coming off the tablets.

In the next five years my sister died aged forty, Daphne’s health worsened resulting in a move to full-time residential care and the senior officer at my old job gave me the run around after I suggested a return in a part-time role. Pretty hard to take from an organisation I gave my life to for more than twenty years. 2015 brought a return to the medication and when Daphne died in 2017 eventually some more counselling. With everything that had happened to me, the professionals had difficulty in identifying my condition so in the circumstances the focus became my recent bereavement.

It was only in the winter of 2018 when I accessed the Time To Talk service again that PTSD was mentioned and everything fell into place. The trauma caused by my work situation was still haunting me particularly through nightmares, whilst the pain of bereavement was easing. Bingo, this new diagnosis was uniquely liberating. On the downside, I waited months for the specialist counselling. The fact that someone has put the finger on what was causing my illness was strangely uplifting.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 6 Comments

Being a PPC with a Snap GE looming….

Needless to say, I have been busy lately! As have been PPCs and candidate selection teams up and down the country with the threat of looming General Election. Exciting times!

This uncertainty plays havoc with our mental health. We all have mental health, as we all have physical health. Not knowing whether one’s life is going to be put on hold in a few hours time for the next six weeks can be extraordinarily stressful.

At our local exec last night our team well-being was raised by a wise and concerned seasoned campaigner. He wanted us to first of all recognise the dangers of a 24/7 campaign and the huge pressure it puts everyone under; and secondly have a way of supporting our activists.

I have been at a lot of training sessions over the years since approved as a PPC in 2014. I can not remember any ALDC or party training in protecting and preserving the health and well-being of our campaigners and activists. There are usually lots of jokes about the junk food we all consume and the weight we gain due to poor hours, lack of sleep and not looking after ourselves – a feeling that our bodies might take a bashing during the campaign but its all worth it in the sacrifice for the Greater Good, i.e. winning.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 8 Comments

Making a difference – the first Mental Health First Aid Impact Report

I blogged several years ago about my experience of training as a Mental Health First Aider. Since then, I’ve lobbied and worked to bring equal parity of esteem to mental and physical first aid.

So I was keen to read the first Impact Report from Mental Health First Aid England: does MHFA really work?

The statistics which open the report remain shocking. An average of fifteen people per day took their own life in 2017. The approximate cost per year of mental ill-health in England is £105 billion. And that does not include the personal cost of lives changed and relationships altered forever.

Over 140,000 people were trained in Mental Health First Aid in 2018/19. That is from the beginnings of training 9,000 in 2009. To date, over 400,000 people have had mental health first aid training. This includes the full course as well as the bespoke Armed Forces course; the course for those working in Higher Education; and the course for those working with young people.

Many employers now use Mental Health First Aid in training line-managers and promoting well-being in the workplace. The evidence shows that 72 million working days are lost each year due to mental ill-health. Several testimonials in the Impact Report give strength to the argument that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Alan Millbrow of Three UK says,

Mental Health First Aid is an essential part of our well-being strategy…..It has had an immediate positive impact on our people….We are keen to continue to break down barriers.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 3 Comments

It’s time we talked about legalising drugs

There is currently much noise around the (unsurprising) news that a senior politician, who was once a journalist, spending much time in a large city in the UK, has taken drugs during his life – we’re taking illicit drugs here, cocaine, in Mr Gove’s case.

Despite some moral outrage, there has been a surprising shift in the criticism. Much of the condemnation has been around the hypocrisy of a cabinet minister. A minister who is wedded to a policy which criminalises users of drugs, as opposed to the actual taking.

I’m going to concentrate here on the argument to legalise drugs. There is, of course, much debate to be had, so I’m happy for you to contact me for further debate, and do your own research too (TRANSFORM, The Loop, Volte Face and Anyone’s Child are great places to start). I argue for legalising, not decriminalising drugs. Whilst users could seek better support, “decrim” leaves the manufacture, trafficking and supply of the drugs in criminal hands – that doesn’t really move us on much.

So, we have two choices when it comes to legalising drugs.

  1. We leave things as they are.
  1. We legalise and regulate, via state control. This would:
  • Reduce the black market for the manufacture and trafficking of drugs, which also includes human trafficking, including sexual abuse and other horrific issues in what is referred to as “they supply chain”
  • Increase health support for people who require it (we also need to be honest that not everyone who uses is addicted or dependent) and reduce the needless deaths in our families, towns and cities
  • Increase education regarding support, but also safer usage. Also unlock research into currently illegal drugs; some initial research suggests some illicit drugs could be used, as a start, to tackle schizophrenia and various cancers
  • Make the supply subject to legal controls – you wouldn’t accept alcohol mixed with rat poison, so why should people have it in their cocaine? Also this means age controls, labelling and proper quality control
  • Reduce gang crime, violent knife and gun crimes, and seriously tackle the “county lines” issue. We can’t just ask the Police to endlessly run around after gangs who supply – a gang removed can be replaced by a new one in less than hour. Speaking to the Police in many places, they often can be found to privately support changing the law, because the “war on drugs” isn’t winning – LEAP UK is a great source of information. 
Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 50 Comments

LibLink: Christine Jardine We all deserve the same quality of mental health care as my late husband

Christine Jardine’s column is a bit different this week. She writes about how her late husband, Calum, was affected by Bipolar Disorder. Calum Macdonald was a brilliant journalist, working for the Herald in Glasgow for many years. Although they were separated at the time of his death from a heart attack during the 2017 election campaign, they remained close.

Christine described how the quality of care Calum received helped him so much. Sadly, others aren’t so fortunate.

When we needed it, our GP was there straight away and offered daily support.

Calum had a consultation within 24 hours and the help he needed, from that moment for the next 22 years.

I will be forever grateful that we had that time, and that medical support allowed my daughter to know the affable, tolerant Calum.

But the fact that she also saw, at times, the problems her father faced has also, in some way, brought its own benefits. When I ask her, she says that she has learned to never make a concrete judgement on anyone. There may be a fuller story than the one we see.

What she argues is that the fragility of mental health can affect any of us and should be regarded with the same understanding as if it were a broken leg.

She recounted how it had first become apparent that Calum was ill:

Posted in News | Also tagged | 4 Comments

Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 #EmpowerHalfHour

The Where’s Your Head At? campaign launched a Workplace Manifesto on Monday. As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2019, this campaign is raising awareness of how employers and businesses can better support their employees’ mental health and well-being. It is a straightforward manifesto which the campaign is calling all employers to sign. The principals, in brief, are:

1. Everyone has mental health

2. We need to build a diverse and inclusive workplace to lead to a
happier and healthier working environment

3. We need to treat mental and physical health equally in the workplace

4. Employers need to turn mental health awareness into positive action

Point number three is the renewed call for equality of mental and physical first aid under health and safety legislation – an initiative I led at Lib Dem party conference in Liverpool in 2015 and which was first presented to parliament as an Early Day Motion by Norman Lamb MP. It has been debated in Parliament, and pressure is on to change this legislation.

Point number four calls for six specific actions, that workplaces

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 3 Comments

Great news that the Mental Capacity Bill is set to pass final stages

I have been watching the progress of the Mental Capacity Bill closely. One of the reasons I, and many activists I’m sure, became involved in politics was because of our concern over mental health, the marginalised, and mental capacity issues. Indeed, my other half researches in this area, so I have an in-house expert on mental capacity and I’m well aware the law needs improving.

The Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill as introduced in July 2017 was radically improved by the Liberal Democrats and is set to pass its final stages in Parliament before becoming law.

This is a very important piece of legislation which could apply to any of us. For example, if people are in care homes and are having to be locked in, protections are needed to make sure this deprivation of liberty is necessary for their safety and in accordance with their human rights.

This new piece of legislation aims to improve these protections for anyone who lacks capacity and may be deprived of liberty. It took the Liberal Democrats to lead a cross-party effort to force the Conservative Government to remove their exclusionary definition of the deprivation of liberty.

Our changes also included a commitment to review the Code of Practice.

Posted in News and Parliament | Also tagged | Leave a comment

When it comes to mental health, all’s fair in love and leafleting

We all feel it. Brexit is a battleground. It’s muddy trenches that stink to high heaven whichever side of it you’re on, and like sticky quicksand it’s near impossible to escape.

What’s more, the confrontational atmosphere is contributing to a mental health crisis in our political system, one that needs addressing fast.

For someone used to running fast-paced action days and writing punchy election literature, sometimes it can be hard not to view politics like a war. Elections become a battle of attrition. Your opponent is your enemy. Your leaflets are your ammunition. Your voters are a vital resource you must …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 19 Comments

10 April 2019 – the overnight press releases

Report proves need for a transformational investment in mental health

The Liberal Democrats have called for a “transformational investment in mental health” following a report by the Children’s Commissioner for England which shows over a third of local areas have cut real terms spending on ‘low level’ children’s mental health services.

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Judith Jolly said:

The desperate lack of funding for children’s mental health services leaves young people with nowhere to turn. This is exactly why issues like depression and anxiety become worse. It doesn’t need to be this way.

The writing has been on the wall for some

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , and | 3 Comments

Ruby Wax is appointed Chancellor of Southampton University – with a focus on mental health

Embed from Getty Images

This is very refreshing news. American actress, comedian, mental health campaigner, lecturer and author, Ruby Wax has been appointed Chancellor of Southampton University.

Southampton University is a research-intensive establishment with around 25,000 students. It is a founding member of the leading Russell Group of British Universities. Its notable alumni have included Chris Packham, Jon Sopel, Justine Greening, Brian Eno and Dame Wendy Hall. Previous Chancellors have included the 4th and 7th Dukes of Wellington.

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Lib Dem bill to bring in mental health checks for new mums

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. And today, in advance of IWD 2019 our Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse will introduce a Bill to improve mental health care for new mothers.

I welcome this legislation. As a mother of three, I am well aware of what is currently offered to new mothers. It is not enough. This campaign will tackle one aspect which could be improved: introducing the requirement that the current routine NHS post-natal check-ups given six weeks after having your baby must include mental health checks and support.

It is called the Postnatal Check-ups (Mental Health) Bill, and the first reading is in Parliament today.

Wera said:

It is extremely worrying that nearly half of new mothers who have experienced mental health or emotional issues have not had their problem identified by a health professional or received any help or treatment.

Postnatal mental health issues are not a new phenomenon and are not uncommon. It’s time to remove the stigma, encourage new mothers to discuss their emotional well-being, and provide them with the mental health support they need.

The full text of the proposed bill is

Posted in News and Parliament | Also tagged , , and | 1 Comment

Claire Tyler writes: Children need better access to mental health care

Mental health care in this country needs radical transformation.  Both adult and children’s mental health services continue to be plagued by long waiting times, lack of access to treatment and chronic staff shortages. For children, the average wait between their first symptoms developing and being able to access treatment is estimated to be a horrifying 10 years. Once a referral has been made, The Children’s Society estimate that young people wait an average of 58 days until they are assessed and then a further 41 days until they begin treatment. 

In a recent survey, a thousand GPs across the country expressed their concerns about access to Children’s Mental Health Services. It found that 78% of GPs are worried that too few of their young patients can get treatment for mental ill-health and a staggering 99% of them feared that under 18 years old will come to harm as a direct result of these delays in care. 

For many of these children, the only way to access the care they need is for their mental health to deteriorate to crisis point or to turn to private care. In fact, almost two-fifths of GPs surveyed said they would recommend patients whose families can afford it to go private. It is completely unacceptable that we have such a growing divide between those who can pay for treatment and others who are left waiting.  Seventy years after the creation of the NHS, families should not be forced to pay for the mental healthcare their children so desperately need.  

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 6 Comments

Norman Lamb’s message for Time to Talk Day

Today is Time to Talk Day.

Norman Lamb was probably the best Minister we had in the Coalition years. He did so much to try to change the culture of the NHS on mental health. And what I particularly liked was that there was no bullshit from him. If something wasn’t good enough, he owned it and tried to do something about it.

Today, for Time to Talk Day, he urged people to talk to each other about mental health.

I just wish that we had had a minister for mental health in Scotland who actually got it.

The reason Norman got it is because mental ill health has affected family members. His sister died by suicide in 2015 and his son Archie has OCD. 

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 1 Comment

Using colourful Pom-poms to remember Holly #TimetoTalk

Having five brothers and one sister means that I am lucky to have lots of glorious nieces and nephews, and, nowadays, great nieces and great nephews. I am a bit like “Great Uncle Bulgaria” in the Wombles.

But last July, we lost one of my nieces, Holly (pictured, right). Never mind me being her uncle, Holly’s passing has, of course, devastated her close family.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 6 Comments

4 February 2019 – today’s press releases

Welsh Liberal Democrats recommit to supporting children’s mental health and wellbeing

To mark the beginning of Children’s Mental Health Week (4th February – 10th February), the Welsh Liberal Democrats are recommitting to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of Wales’ children and young people.

The Welsh Liberal Democrat Education Minister has taken a number of steps intended to promote mental health and wellbeing in schools. This includes developing a whole-school approach to mental health, connecting schools with mental health expertise, and taking forward curriculum reform with a strong emphasis on mental health and wellbeing.

Jane Dodds, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, commented:

The

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | Leave a comment

Today is Young Carers Awareness Day

How many of you know a young carer?

Today we are celebrating the contributions many of our young people make as carers. It is Young Carers Awareness Day.

Caring can take many forms – a sibling caring for another sibling with a learning disability, a child looking after a parent, a young person helping aid a grandparent.

The world of care is diverse and often misunderstood, and many of our young carers are overlooked. They are balancing their care responsibilities with school work and sometimes have little time left over.

One issue I wanted to explore here is the symbiotic value of care. Yes, young carers are taking time to look after their relative, but what do they get in return? Not pay, in most cases. But they do get relationship.

Spending time together, in a care situation, creates an intimacy not found elsewhere. The relationship that develops can be deeper than it would have been without the aspect of care. The dimensions giving and receiving care adds to a relationship are profound.

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

Being a PPC: what’s your motivation?

Caron asked me to write a series a little while ago about being a PPC – and my response at the time was that a day-in-the-life blog might put people off ever applying to be a PPC!

Being a PPC is hard work – we are volunteers and unpaid, but expected to do a huge amount of work building our teams, supporting local elections, sending out press releases, attending local events, answering letters and emails, the list goes on.

However, I willingly signed up to the never-ending work. Why? In my case it was my anger at poor mental health provision coupled with my fury at the inequality in society. Those two issues pushed me over the edge from being an armchair activist to getting out and knocking on doors, trying to make a difference.

I didn’t like door-knocking the first time – I thought I was intruding on people’s privacy by interrupting whatever they happened to be doing. But I quickly found out that most people like being asked their opinion and listened to. What they don’t like about politics is the shouting of Westminster and the perceived lack of understanding about how the real world works. Someone knocking on their door, listening to stories about their world, the real world, means a huge amount to them.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 8 Comments

Parliament debates Mental Health First Aid

The Backbench debate on incorporating Mental Health First Aid into First Aid At Work legislation is scheduled to take place this morning in Parliament.

The Government statement on this is here, with a debate pack pdf link at the bottom entitled, “Mental health first aid in the workplace”.

One of the reasons I entered politics, as a career musician, was my concern over mental health care and the lack of provision for those experiencing mental ill-health.

In March 2015 I successfully amended Liberal Democrat party policy on Mental Health to include incorporating mental health first aid into physical First Aid at Work courses.

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Also tagged | 2 Comments

6 December 2018 – today’s press releases

You begin to sense the uncertainty emanating from Whitehall, but there’s plenty going on elsewhere in the governance jungle…

  • Brexit plans could lead to European Windrush scandal
  • Mental Health Review must lead to more investment
  • Universal Credit Causing Housing Crisis – Welsh Lib Dems

Brexit plans could lead to European Windrush scandal

Responding to the Department for Exiting the EU’s policy paper on Citizens’ Rights, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs Ed Davey said:

The Government has finally admitted that free movement of labour won’t end this March.

The fact they tried to sneak this out shows yet again that people can’t trust anything this

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , , , and | Leave a comment

27 November 2018 – today’s press releases

There’s a decidedly Welsh flavour to today’s press releases, as Theresa May hits the road in an attempt to sell a dead parrot to the masses…

  • Police acting as first responders to people with mental ill health
  • Welsh Lib Dems Welcome Aled Roberts as New Welsh Language Commissioner
  • Theresa May Must Give Wales a People’s Vote – Welsh Lib Dems
  • Stars Oppose Brexit at Hay Festival – Welsh Lib Dems
  • Davey: Govt’s failure to publish immigration plans “unacceptable”

Police acting as first responders to people with mental ill health

Responding to today’s report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services on Policing and …

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , , , and | 1 Comment

Lib Dem Press: Tories must not neglect young people with mental illness

Responding to an official report published today revealing one in eight children and young people aged between 5 and 19 surveyed in England in 2017 had a mental disorder, former Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb said:

“These troubling figures reveal the true extent of mental health problems among children. The Conservative Government has a stark choice: either invest in services and give our children the best possible chance in life, or be responsible for the neglect of an entire generation of young people.

“Mental illness can blight the lives and futures of children without the right interventions, but today’s report by the Children’s Commissioner is a brutal reminder of how vulnerable young people too often hit a brick wall when trying to access support.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 1 Comment

29 October 2018 – today’s press releases (part one)

Budget Day always generates a lot of press coverage, and this year is no exception, but there have been plenty of other issues worthy of comment. Indeed, there has been so much that I’ve been forced to do this in two parts…

Welsh Lib Dems – Budget a Golden Opportunity

Ahead of the UK Government’s budget, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have urged Chancellor Phillip Hammond to seize the opportunity the budget presents to end austerity and create a fairer, more prosperous Wales.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are calling on the UK Government to stop Brexit, fix Britain’s broken tax system, fund public services …

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , and | Leave a comment

Not thin enough for treatment – Wera Hobhouse highlights stigma around eating disorders

In a parliamentary debate on Tuesday, Wera Hobhouse outlined how sufferers of eating disorders are being failed by health and support services. Lack of training can mean that doctors make things worse. She told the story of a young woman in her constituency who suffered for three years and never received the help that she needed.

Her aim was to look at the stigma around eating disorders and suggest solutions – one of which was the Lib Dem policy of giving young people access to child and adolescent mental health services until the age of 25. Here’s her speech in full:

We probably all know at least one sufferer or ex-sufferer of an eating disorder. As one put it to me, eating disorders are the easiest thing to get into and the hardest to get out of. We have come a long way in recent years, but we are nowhere near to providing lasting, successful treatments for hundreds of thousands of people. Many people are suffering alone and in silence, without a support network. We are failing as a society to support people in their deeply personal battles.

This debate is about stigma. There are two stigmas around eating disorders—that from outside and that which sufferers feel themselves. The result is that people often wait a long time before asking for help.

It takes an average of 58 weeks from someone realising that they have a problem to them seeking help from a GP. That is more than a year of self-doubt, self-loathing and self-harm. On average, it is a further 27 weeks until the start of treatment. Add to that the time that the person has suffered with a disorder before admitting that there is a problem and we start to see the real picture.

Anybody who has had a close family member in such a situation will understand the hon. Gentleman’s point, but families are often pretty helpless too, if they do not really understand what can be done and how they can help their family member to get out of the problem. It is a form of addiction, and like with any other addiction, family members are co-sufferers. They want to help but do not really understand the deep-seated problems. Family members are important, but we need the professionals and their understanding to help families get through together. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that families are incredibly important.

Eating disorders define large periods of people’s lives. How can we shorten that time? We need people to be okay with saying, “I’m not okay.” We need to tackle the stigma around eating disorders, and the message needs to get through to a lot of people. More than 1 million people in the UK have an eating disorder; three quarters are women and one quarter are men. That is a very large number, plus there are the friends and family who suffer with them. So many people with conditions such as anorexia and bulimia blame themselves. It is not their fault and we need to make sure that they know that.

When I announced on Twitter that I was holding this debate, I received a wave of emotional responses and personal stories. Yesterday, a local doctor dropped into my office a book that she had written, which described her fight with eating disorders since the age of 13. That shows how early it can start.​

I also got an email from a young woman called Lorna, who experienced serious anorexia while studying in my constituency in Bath. This is what she told me:

“I ended up with an initial diagnosis of anxiety and depression, and was started on antidepressants. I suspended my studies and worked as a carer in my local village, living at home with my mum and brother. People I’d known all my life began commenting on the weight I’d lost, and telling me how good I looked. This is when my anorexia began to take full hold.

I stopped eating completely, lying to my mum and saying I’d eaten at work, began over-exercising compulsively, and remember pacing the corridors at work to burn extra calories. I became obsessed. I weighed myself up to 12 times a day.

My mum was terrified, and didn’t know what to do. Eventually she came with me to my GP and I told him everything. I told him I was petrified of putting on weight, exercising excessively and skipping nearly every meal. His response was ‘Oh, that’ll be your antidepressants.’ He took me off a high dose, there and then. Cold turkey.

Each time…I told him how out of control I felt with my eating. He’d force me onto the scales, shaking and crying, and then tell me my BMI was ‘healthy’ and I didn’t meet the diagnostic criteria. I was devastated. I had opened up and was denied help. I never got diagnosed with anorexia, despite going from a size 16 to a size 8 in less than a year.

I went through the monthly humiliation of being dragged onto scales and told I wasn’t thin enough to be helped yet. And not having that formal diagnosis is hard. When I tell people I was anorexic, they never quite believe me, as even doctors didn’t. I think they always assume I was being dramatic, or ‘it wasn’t that bad then’. Today, I am weight-restored, although struggle with now being overweight.

It took me 3 years to recover. 3 years of misery and obsession. I was dangerously unwell, but not sick enough to get an ounce of support.”

When I read that story, I am amazed by how brave Lorna is. She was brave to ask for treatment and even braver to put her trust into the medical system a second time, even after she did not receive the treatment that she really needed. She was very brave to tell her story. Lorna has gone on to campaign for proper treatment for eating disorders. She is here in the Chamber, and I want to thank her personally for letting me share her story—Lorna, thank you. I am so sorry that you had to go through such an awful experience. I know your words will help others, and I desperately hope that together we can improve the treatment and care of those with eating disorders and end the stigma for good.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 2 Comments

Every day should be Mental Health Awareness Day

We all have mental health, as we all have physical health. That is established.

I welcome World Mental Health Awareness Day – it is great that we can celebrate and work together on better mental health for all. However, we need to recognise that fighting for good mental health provision and raising awareness is a 365-day project.

Suicide is the leading cause of death in men under the age of 45. The Government, yesterday, announced a new role, Minister for Suicide Prevention. Suicide is sadly the final stage in what can be a deterioration of mental health. Regular readers will know that I am a Mental Health First Aider, and as such trained to recognise the signs of someone with suicide ideation. It is not an exact science, but at least I know what to watch out for. Picking up warning signs in colleagues, friends, family is key towards helping those who feel life is too bleak to continue.

Mental Health First Aid is being used by more and more workplaces in their health and well-being strategies. Training line-managers and pastoral care officers to recognise the signs of mental ill-health, whether that is stress, anxiety, depression, psychosis or a range of other conditions, is key to early intervention and prevention.

I welcomed Vince Cable’s demand yesterday for transparency over employers’ mental health strategies. He has called upon businesses to publish their mental health strategies, saying that if they don’t do so voluntarily, then the government should legislate to require such disclosure. Vince said:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | Leave a comment

World Mental Health Day

It is World Mental Health Day. It is a time to celebrate how far we have come in the UK when it comes to talking about mental health. It is also the time to recognise the ongoing crisis and redouble our efforts.

We have all seen the headlines – 1 in 4 of us will suffer from a mental health problem in our lifetime. Our young people are particularly at risk, with half of all mental illness beginning by the age of 14. Children’s mental health services, or ‘CAMHS’, are struggling to cope and the burden on teachers, who deal with the effects on the front line in schools. The rates of antidepressant use in our country are on the rise.

This Government promised £20 billion extra funding for the NHS in June this year. However, we are still waiting for more detail and to understand how this will help those who are suffering. The shadow of Brexit is leading to opportunity cost in this policy area. The lack of initiative means we are losing lives.

This may seem stark, but this is the real cost of inaction in mental health.

Posted in News and Op-eds | 4 Comments

My view on our conference motion to end discrimination in mental health care

The problem with conference is that it is impossible to get to everything! I was hoping to speak on Sunday morning in our debate on the policy motion entitled, “Ending Discrimination In Mental Health Provision”. Regular readers of LDV know that mental health policy is an area I feel strongly about, so I am gutted I can’t get there due to a conflict.

 So I’ll blog my speech instead…

Currently, in our country if you are someone without a mental disorder you have an absolute right to refuse medical treatment or refuse to be detained for medical purposes.

However, if you have a mental disorder or have learning difficulties you lose that right and can be detained and treated under the Mental Health Act 1983 without giving consent.

As the charity Mind has pointed out, anyone with capacity who does not have a mental disorder should not be involuntarily detained. Forcibly detaining someone based on disability is completely discriminatory and should be stopped. As this motion says in lines 17-18, such detentions are in breach of the UN Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities.

I am particularly concerned that the Mental Health Act 1983, as amended by the Mental Health Act 2007, justifies the involuntary detention of those with learning difficulties whose behaviour is “abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible”. Behaviours in those with learning difficulties often have unrelated causes (sensory overload, for example), so understanding the cause of such behaviour, and treating the underlying symptoms is what is needed, not involuntary detention.

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Also tagged and | Leave a comment
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDavid Allen 11th Nov - 11:05pm
    Cathy M, you're right, the third reason why this election is an unsatisfactory way of promoting the Remain cause is because the two main parties...
  • User AvatarGeoff Payne 11th Nov - 11:05pm
    Thanks for posting this, Caron. As you know the Federal Elections are presently underway. Before reading the article, I had already agreed with the other...
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 11th Nov - 10:56pm
    Jayne Mansfield, To me, the primary problem with Corbyn's approach to Brexit is that it's just too late to consider it. We have already had...
  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 11th Nov - 10:19pm
    Some lines do not scan well. For example, instead of “Demonstrate the strength of the British/Backing all MPs doing right”, why not “Showing the strength...
  • User AvatarYeovil Yokel 11th Nov - 9:55pm
    Would it be possible to post this video on You Tube or the main Lib Dem website, as I can't play it on my PC...
  • User AvatarKeith Browning 11th Nov - 9:43pm
    As one of the active 'remain camp' living in Spain we are all despairing that Lib Dems seem to be fighting Labour as hard as...