Tag Archives: mental health

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

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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.  

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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. 

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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 …

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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.

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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 …

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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Inequality in society harms our mental health – how can we fix it?

“Wealth is not a measure of worth. But low income is related to feelings of inferiority.” Across a range of countries, studies have shown, the experience of poverty leads to people believing they have failed themselves for being poor, and accepting that others feel like that about them.

This is part of the remarkable findings of professors Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, epidemiologists, whom I heard giving a talk on inequality on Wednesday night in a Keswick church.

Speaking alternately and informally, the professors reminded an attentive audience of how common it is for people to feel inadequate in social gatherings. They may feel they aren’t dressed correctly, can’t make small talk, and are scared of being judged. Sometimes people find social contact so difficult that they withdraw from social life. 

“Yet social contact is crucial to health and to happiness”, the speakers said.

They explained that income inequality is linked to anxiety about social status. There has been a study across 28 European nations of social anxiety, looking at it in relation to different income levels in these societies. The study found that there is more anxiety about status in unequal societies, and the more inequality, the greater the anxiety.

It was apparently known ten years ago when the two professors’ important book ‘The Spirit Level’ was published that there was more mental illness in more unequal societies. But studies of social psychologists, they told us, had led them to understand how this may happen. People made to feel they are inferior will sometimes struggle against the feeling, but others will accept it, internalise a feeling of subordination and submission, and become more prone to depression.

Other psychological effects of living in a more unequal society, the speakers continued, include more wrong self-estimation. Apparently in the USA 96% of drivers think that their driving is better than the average! In Sweden it is 66%. The greater the inequality, the greater is the tendency for people to be narcissistic, so that it becomes difficult to tell the differences between self-esteem and narcissism. (And “It’s awful if narcissism gets to a position of power!” they added, to rueful laughter from the audience.)

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Scottish Liberal Democrats highlight perinatal mental health

As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, Willie Rennie again used his questions to the First Minister to highlight the crisis in Scotland’s mental health provision:

Post-natal depression and depression during pregnancy affect up to one in five women. Half the women who experience it will go undetected and untreated.

During an FMQs session in April, Willie Rennie highlighted the lack of perinatal mental health services and drew attention to the fact that new mothers in half of Scotland cannot access specialist services. Only Glasgow meets the required standard in the whole of Scotland.

Scottish Liberal Democrats have a number of ideas to provide better perinatal services. They include:

  • The six week post-natal check to include support from a GP and Health Visitor with specific training on maternal mental health;
  • Referrals to suitable community support networks, supported by a health visitor;
  • Inpatient care to allow mothers to continue caring for their babies and be close to home;
  • A new campaign to remove the stigma of mental ill health for new mothers;
  • A new plan to increase core training for GPs and health visitors in identifying and treating maternal mental health.

Yesterday there was a debate on perinatal mental health at Holyrood:

Our health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said:

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Mental Health Awareness Week 2018

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme is this year is stress. Stress can pervade our lives, but one aspect is stress at work. Keeping a mentally-healthy workforce is best for everyone: the employees, the business and the customers.

Being self-employed as a musician, workplace stress has a slightly different connotation. I’m preparing this week for a solo piano recording on Friday. It can be highly stressful and intense, but I’ve done enough of these projects to know how to manage my stress.

And it is in managing stress that workplaces are now realising they need to put provisions in place. Stats show that mental ill-health cost UK businesses £35 billion last year. A massive sum, made up of absences for illness, lost productivity and staff turnover. And it doesn’t take into account the personal cost to each of those who suffer mental ill-health. Mental Health First Aid is being rolled out in many businesses.

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Vince Cable talks about his mother’s mental illness, his father’s racism and overcoming prejudice in a moving and candid interview

Embed from Getty Images

You probably don’t know that Vince Cable was on Radio 5 Live as the birthday guest on Sunday night because it’s not really been reported anywhere. It’s worth catching up on it though because it’s one of the most open, personal  and moving interviews I’ve heard him give. He’s mentioned the racism he and his first wife Olympia faced as a mixed race couple before but in this

Vince was 75 last week but he said that he was both physically and mentally fit – he was introduced as a dancer and black run skier. His age isn’t an issue, he says. He says he’s well received amongst audiences of young people and derided by older people.

He said there was a period in politics when it was important to be youthful, citing Kennedy, Blair and Cameron but talks about a blend of youthful innovation and experience is necessary.

Growing up in York to ambitious working class parents, he learned about aspiration and ambition. He says he was a bit lonely when his brother arrived at 11. HIs mother suffered post natal depression and spent some time in hospital as a result. He has talked before of the role of adult education in helping her recover from that. His brother was fostered for a while and his father had to look after him.  He said people were quite cruel about it and taunted him about is mother going to the “loony bin.” He says we’ve made some progress with that sort of attitude.

The idea of women working when he was growing up was frowned upon. He sees this as adding to his mother’s loneliness. His father was a very traditional person who had campaigned to stop women teaching and who believed in a hierarchy of races.

He talked of forming a “little liberal cell” in his house with his mum, who defied the instructions to vote Conservative she received from her husband.

It was playing Macbeth in the school play which helped him overcome his awkwardness as a teenager and he spoke of how his involvement in a drama group led to his first relationship – with Lady Macbeth.

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How do benefit sanctions affect mental health?

There are few things more obvious than if you are deprived of the means to feed yourself, it’s going to be stressful and more than likely affect your mental health and not in a good way. This Mental Health Awareness Week, the excellent Scottish Association for Mental Health is collecting evidence to present to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into benefit sanctions. 

People on benefits can lose up to all of their personal allowances if they are deemed to have not done enough to find work or have missed an appointment or have been sacked for …

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Children’s mental health – the Government is not getting it right

I’m following up my post from February on children’s mental health and the Government’s Green Paper on the issue.  Yesterday, the Education Committee and Health & Social Care Committee issued a joint statement saying that

The Government’s proposed Green Paper on Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health lacks ambition and will provide no help to the majority of those children who desperately need it.

Having three teenage girls, this rams home. The girls tell me of the myriad of mental health issues going on around them – peers self-harming; experiencing psychosis; anorexia; depression; anxiety; the list goes on. This is their world, it is our world, and we are failing our young people.

The Government is rolling out Trailblazer pilot schemes, but it is too little and not being done quickly enough. Hundreds of thousands of children are missing out on the help they need now. I recently spoke with someone who works in CAMHS and she lamented the lack of provision locally for the girls she was working with. Staff know the pressures, parents are living with the pressures, young people are suffering needlessly.

The need for more resource in schools to support young people was highlighted, with the report saying existing CAMHS staff could not do any more than they are already doing. People are stretched to capacity.

Participants in the workshops highlighted exam pressure as being a major cause of mental ill-health. The report suggests the Government needs to commission a study on the effect of our exam-based system on mental health.

Young people excluded from school are far more prone to mental ill-health, but the Green Paper does not address this issue. How can we better meet the needs of these young people?

A major worry for many parents is the transition from children’s to adult mental health services. It is not happening. Young people are falling through the gaps and not receiving the services they need as they enter adulthood. Currently, young people transition at 18, but the report suggests that 25 would be a more appropriate age. What is scary is that seemingly a third of young people drop out of mental health care when they turn 18 and don’t make the transfer to adult services.

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Young Lib Dem Councillor Ben Lawrie talks about his experience of Depression

I feel incredibly proud to know Scottish Liberal Democrat Councillor Ben Lawrie who has talked about his experience of Depression in this short film. It takes courage to talk so openly about something so personal. Doing so helps others immeasurably.

You should be aware before you watch it that it includes his description of an attempt to take his life.

He wants to share his experience to help others going through it, which I think it will. When I was growing up experiencing the sorts of things Ben went through, it would have been useful to know that I wasn’t alone and that this was an illness not some defect in my character.

It’s also great that his friends and family share how this all was for them.

His openness drew praise from Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie who, last weekend, ran 117 miles in 3 days to raise money for a Scottish mental health charity. It’s not too late to donate to his effort.

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The dire state of mental health services

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s recent report on mental health provision is damning.

Titled Maintaining momentum: driving improvements in mental health care, Rob Behrens’ analysis confirms what we already know: mental health services are in crisis and people are suffering and dying because of it.

The case studies are harrowing. Mr Behrens’ says:

The cases highlighted in this report starkly illustrate the human cost of service failures. These cases are not isolated examples. They are symptomatic of persistent problems we see time and again in our complaints casework and, moreover, they represent failings throughout the care pathway.

In the most severe cases,

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Bercow, Ten Years On – the #SLCN campaign

I CAN, the children’s communication charity, and The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists have launched Bercow: Ten Years On. This report delves into the support, or lack of support, children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) receive in England.

Over 2,500 people were consulted about speech and language therapy provision for children and young people. Only 15% thought that adequate speech and language therapy is provided.

Why is this a liberal issue? Well, we advocate free speech, in its many forms, one of which is oral. If we do not help children and young people with speech and language difficulties, they face a lifetime of communication hindrance.

We, as Lib Dems, also want to give children the best start in life. We are behind free school meals, the Pupil Premium and shared parental leave, so we should also get behind the call to improve speech and language services so that these children can better engage with education, more easily make friends and have communication skills for life.

Only 50% of children and young people with speech and language communication difficulties are identified. So one of the calls in this report is for early diagnosis and early intervention.

I was surprised to learn that 60% of young offenders in England have been found to have speech and language communication needs. With early intervention, many of these young people would not have communication difficulties.

Some of the recommendations of what must be done to improve the situation at a local and national level address social mobility:

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Mental Health is not a finished campaign – we need you more than ever.

I was excited to be speaking with many of our dedicated members, and many energised new members at the fantastic conference in Southport this past weekend. To my joy, I found that mental health is still very much a key focus for our Party.

In Coalition, thanks to Norman Lamb, Paul Burstow before him, and Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister, government finally had a focus on Mental Health – something shamefully ignored by previous governments. We introduced the first ever waiting times for some areas of mental health, and enshrined “parity of esteem” in law – the requirement for the NHS to give equal consideration to mental and physical health when offering treatment.

Despite some light words from the Prime Minister, since the Lib Dems left office, mental health – as with the NHS and social care in general – has not had the proper funding it requires. This means the waiting times aren’t being met and the 2020 target is likely impossible to meet.

Daisy Cooper put forward a great motion to celebrate the NHS at 70 at Conference. Speakers followed with passionate stories about their call for the NHS to be protected and given the funding to fulfil its obligations. Indeed, only the LibDems are being honest about adding 1p to income tax in order to plug this funding gap, before seeking to introduce a dedicated Health and Care tax in the future.

Norman Lamb spoke with passion on how it’s an outrage for mental health to still be the Cinderella of our health service. Mohsin Khan talked about the horrors of people being sent hundreds of miles away from their homes just to gain a bed for treatment. Daisy then reminded us how the Lib Dems are the Party of the NHS.

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Growth in infant mortality highlights desperate pressures on the NHS

The annual statistics on stillbirths, infant deaths and childhood deaths in England and Wales were published yesterday by the government. The report also includes data on the causes of death and information on key risk factors.

This report evidences the first two-year increase in infant mortality rates in England and Wales for the last 30 years. Former Health Minister and Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb said:

Infant mortality has been in steep decline for over 30 years. However, this success cannot lead to complacency.

Figures released today show there is a trend towards increased infant mortality rates over the last two years. Losing a child is one of the most heart-breaking experiences imaginable. The government must urgently examine the cause and what might be driving this disturbing reversal of historic falls in infant mortality. The fact that the NHS is under such strain may well be contributing to this.

That is why the Liberal Democrats want to put a penny in the pound on income tax, to maintain and improve standards in the NHS.

At Spring Conference, a motion was passed celebrating the NHS at 70 and recognising the wonderful contribution of NHS staff.

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Does Vince look fat in this?

Not a question I’ve heard, but I got your attention!

The way we view men and women is still fundamentally flawed. I imagine our Lib Dem male MPs have several suits they use in cycle, only having to choose a shirt and tie.

But our women MPs? It’s a different matter, though it shouldn’t be. I imagine hair, makeup, matching shoes, accessories and the right outfit for the right occasion are all things our women MPs think about. Why??

As a prospective parliamentary candidate, one of the women-only training sessions I attended was on image. I …

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We might not be discussing mental health detention at our Conference, but we are trying to change things

The wonderful Ms Rigg wrote a very detailed piece on how the motions were selected for Spring Conference this week. As a member of the Party’s Federal Conference Committee, she knows all there is to know about such things and it’s great that she shares so much with us.

In her post,  she lamented that a motion on mental health detention, had not made it through.

The mental health detention motion would have highlighted an injustice that is not widely known and would have given us a distinctive policy platform which none of the other parties have – with all due respect to the submitters of the NHS at 70, there’s little in there that is distinctive.

I tend to see her point on this. We do need to show our distinctive perspective on all sorts of pieces so I’m glad that she voted the way she did.

We would have had no shortage of support for such a motion. In fact, we may even have got some parliamentarians speaking in favour. Alistair Carmichael held a debate in Parliament this week on this very issue.  He told the story of a constituent’s son, who’s based in England, and the ordeal he went through. The treatment he received and the failure of the authorities to realise what they had done wrong and apologise for it is pretty disgraceful. Here’s Alistair’s speech:

In recent years, as a community and a society, we have made remarkable progress on our attitudes to mental health. To talk about mental illness is no longer the taboo that it was when I was growing up, and as a consequence we have seen remarkable progress in recent years in relation to the treatment of people, especially in our national health service.

Today, I will focus attention on a slightly different aspect of this issue—one that does not get the same attention as the treatment of people with mental health problems in the NHS. I will talk about the experience of people who come into contact with the criminal justice system—initially, of course, with the police, then with the prosecution services and, possibly, the prison authorities. The purpose of this debate is to make clear to the Minister that within those agencies of the state, we need a change of attitude and culture similar to those we have seen in other aspects of our daily life.

It is surprising that this issue does not get more attention. Many of the people about whom we are speaking often exhibit in public or private what might euphemistically be called “challenging behaviour”, which is a symptom or consequence of their mental illness. It seems to me that at all levels—in the police, the prosecution services, the courts and the prisons—we need a greater level of understanding of their life experience and, as a consequence, better implementation of procedures. In fact, many procedures are pretty good but, as I will come on to explain, they are not followed in a way that is appropriate or that was intended when they were put in place.

I confess that I had rather thought that, within the criminal justice system, we had got beyond that point. Almost a quarter of a century ago, both as a trainee solicitor in Aberdeen and as a prosecutor, I railed against some police officers who, at that stage, still reported people who had attempted suicide, alleging that they had breached the peace. That attitude belonged in the 19th century, not the 20th, and I hope that such things would not happen today. However, it illustrates the underlying attitude that requires exposure.

My interest in this issue was first engaged as a result of a constituent—a lady resident in Orkney—who came to see me because she was concerned about the treatment of her son. This is not an isolated case. From discussions ​that I have had with people in the police, the criminal justice system and social work, I believe that it illustrates pretty well many of the ways in which the criminal justice system fails to meet the needs of people in our community, especially those who suffer from mental health problems.

I will not name these people; my constituent and her son want to retain their privacy, which is perfectly legitimate. However, the Minister should be acquainted with this case; last week, I forwarded him my correspondence file, which is fairly substantial, so that he would be aware of the background.

My constituent’s son is resident in Romford. He has a history of mental illness problems, but prior to the episode that I will discuss he had taken himself off some of the medication that he had been prescribed, because it had side effects that disagreed with him. He was reported missing by his partner on 27 April 2014. She contacted the police because she was concerned that he might kill himself. Eventually, he was traced by two police constables to a shopping centre in Romford. Questioned by the constables on the street, he told them that he was in possession of two kitchen knives, and at that stage he said that he did not intend to harm others; later in an interview, he said that he was considering harming some of those he loved.

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#timetotalk – Supporting Children’s Mental Health

Today is Time To Talk Day – a day to talk about mental health with friends, family and colleagues. Time to Change organises #timetotalk on the first Thursday in February each year. Lib Dem Voice would love to have your stories and thoughts on mental health – please send them in and we will post as many as possible.

I will start with a post on children and mental health – we most likely won’t get any submissions from children today, but to me, getting children’s mental health care right is paramount.

Half of all mental health problems manifest by the age of 14, with 75% by age 24.” And the alarming statistics continue. “Suicide is the most common cause of death for boys aged between 5-19 years, and the second most common for girls of this age.” Unless we get mental health care right during childhood, we are condemning many to a lifetime of mental ill-health.

Early diagnosis and treatment can change lives. If proper help and support are given to children when they first exhibit signs of mental ill-health, long-term prognosis improves dramatically.

There is currently a government inquiry on a green paper on this subject: Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision. It is being overseen by both the Parliamentary Health and Education Select Committees:

The Education and Health Select Committees recognise that the provision of mental health services to children and young people is of vital importance to safeguarding their wellbeing. Good mental health is not only of great value in itself, but it allows young people to take greater advantage of educational opportunities.

In light of the publication of the Government’s green paper on Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision, the House of Commons Select Committees on Health and Education have agreed to launch a joint inquiry to scrutinise the proposed scope and implementation of the green paper, and to follow up on their previous recommendations.

A huge amount of evidence was published on Tuesday with links here.

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