Tag Archives: mental health

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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How you can support LDV’s #timetotalk Day posts

You can’t be truly free if you are constantly fighting illness without the support that you need. That is why Liberal Democrats are so passionate about making sure that people have the right mental health support.

For five years during the coalition years, Liberal Democrat ministers were at the helm of pushing through positive change. Norman Lamb, as the Minister responsible, totally got it. Of the many things he did, the Crisis Care Concordat was a really good example of helping people when they most needed it .

He also fought for parity of esteem between physical and mental health.

In doing this he had the full backing of Nick as Deputy Prime Minister who made sure that he put as much funding as he could into mental health.

What I liked most about Norman’s many interviews on this subject, though, was his forthrightness. Rather than pretend everything was fantastic, he always said that what was happening wasn’t good enough and what he wanted to change.

Every year on the first Thursday in February, Time to Change hold Time to Talk Day. It’s aimed at ending the stigma around mental health and enabling people to be more open about the impact that mental ill health has on them.

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The January Blues: Desolation

Warning: discussion of suicide

Last week in my county division, someone stood at the edge of a motorway bridge with the intention of jumping off. Fortunately, the emergency services got there in time and their life was saved.

I know personally the devastation that suicide can bring on family and friends. My close relative died 26 years ago, and the ramifications are still deeply felt.

As the third in this January Blues series, I wanted to discuss the often hidden topic of suicide. Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 in England and Wales. About three-quarters of suicides in 2016 were male, and the highest rate was amongst men aged 40-44. For women, the age group with the highest suicide rate was 50-54 years. Around the world a person dies by suicide every 40 seconds, according to the World Health Organization.

Mental Health First Aid training teaches that you should bring up the topic if you have any suspicion that someone might be thinking of suicide.

Suicide can be prevented. Most suicidal people do not want to die. They simply do not want to live with the pain. Openly talking about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life.

The opening line, “How are you doing?” can be followed by, “Is it all getting too much?” and “Are you thinking about ending your life?” and then “Have you thought how you might do it?”

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The January Blues: Depression

The still, dark days of January are often associated with heightened levels of depression. Actually, depression is omnipresent.

The charity Mind details depression as ranging from mild to moderate to severe. They list some types of depression:

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)– depression that usually (but not always) occurs in the winter.
  • Dysthymia– continuous mild depression that lasts for two years or more.
  • Prenatal depression– it occurs during pregnancy.
  • Postnatal depression (PND)– occurs in the weeks and months after becoming a parent. Postnatal depression is usually diagnosed in women but it can affect men, too.

Depression can have many causes, but some are the stresses caused by lack of provision. For these, there are political solutions. For example,

  • Homelessness and lack of affordable housing can be highly stressful and lead to depression.
  • Not having enough money for bills and struggling on low pay can lead to depression.

Party policy should not focus on the economics of a policy argument, but rather on wellbeing. What can we do to create a healthy, fair and equal society? Those policies would lead to a more mentally-fit population. Someone who has food on the table and a place to sleep, with no worries about how the next month’s bills are going to be paid, is far less likely to be stressed and potentially depressed.

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Willie Rennie to run almost 5 marathons in 4 days to raise funds for mental health charity

As far as we know, Scotland doesn’t have any elections this May.

Willie Rennie isn’t going to be slacking though.

Over the Easter weekend, he’ll be running the 117 miles of the Fife Coastal Path which runs from the Firth of Forth to the Forth of Tay. He hopes to raise £1000 at least for the Scottish Association for Mental Health a Scottish mental health charity. This reflects his personal and political priorities of securing better mental health care.

That 117 miles is not far off being 5 marathons so …

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Willie Rennie’s Christmas Message: Scottish Lib Dems stand up for better mental health, education and police services

Embed from Getty Images

Here is Willie Rennie’s Christmas Message:

May I wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

2017 was the year the Liberal Democrats turned the corner. We started winning elections again with more MPs and in charge of more councils. I believe that winning is not just good for the Liberal Democrats but is also good for the country.

It means that we have moderate, outward looking, optimistic voices making the case for change and challenging authority and government.

It means that we can shout louder for people who need mental health services. The services are inadequate and must change.

It means we can challenge with greater impact the government and police chiefs on the running of Police Scotland. Without the Liberal Democrats many of the problems of Police Scotland would have gone untested and unchallenged.

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How the Samaritans helped me and how they can help you

In the last two years, I have been helped twice by the Samaritans. The first time was when I had a number of personal, family and work issues piling up. I felt as though everything was getting on top of me, and that if I wasn’t careful, I would end up feeling worse. As usual my family were a great support to me. But I just felt I wanted to reach out to another human being, unconnected with the situations, to share what I was going through.

I emailed [email protected] . Emailing seemed the best thing for me in that situation. I just wanted to share my issues with another human. – To know some other person was reading my thoughts. It was an insurance policy to an extent. I hoped, and my hope turned out to be fulfilled, that emailing “Jo” would help put a limit on my feelings of being somewhat overwhelmed by life at that time. Jo wrote back and was very sympathetic. Jo helped focus my thoughts. Jo read and understood what I was saying, and acted as a “shoulder to cry on”. A safety valve. Jo promised to be there if I needed to share more. Things gradually sorted themselves out. But it was good to know that I had “Jo” on the end of an email in case I needed more support – to let off steam, set out my thoughts, whatever…

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Improving Mental Health Services For Our Young People

On Monday 30th October I asked the Government what action they were taking to ensure that children and young people could access mental health services in a timely way. I have been campaigning to improve CAMHS and this was my latest attempt to put the Government on the spot.

The best that Lord O’Shaughnessy, the Lords Health Minister, could offer was that each year 70,000 more children will receive evidence-based mental health treatment. This is

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Notes from a new councillor: How to change things

I am frustrated about the bureaucracy I recently encountered as a County Councillor. Oxfordshire Mind, which provides many valuable mental health services throughout the county, has a new initiative to promote mental health awareness throughout Oxfordshire.

The question I submitted to the Oxfordshire County Council Cabinet Member for Public Health was:

Oxfordshire Mind is seeking £308K funding for Mental Health Awareness for children and young people. This investment in Public Health would potentially save the NHS and Social Care millions of pounds a year in Oxfordshire. Will the Cabinet Member meet with Mr Dan Knowles, CEO of Oxfordshire Mind, and me regarding funding this scheme of prevention, ensuring better mental health for young people in this county in years to come?

The written response was that the Cabinet Member cannot meet with us as that would be showing favouritism to one charity over another. She informed me there is bidding process to go through for funding.

Being a new County Councillor, I was unaware of this and so now I know better! But asking the question, and having it publicly documented, has already raised awareness. So it is not a wasted effort on my part.

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Mental Health deaths must not be neglected

This October,  I will have been associated with the Liberals and the Liberal Democrats for some 45 years. In 1972 I joined the Liberal Students at Manchester University Medical School where my best subjects were Psychology and Psychiatry so it is unsurprising, perhaps, that I have not only pursued the interests of the NHS as a whole but have also retained a special interest in Mental Health matters.

One of the much-trumpeted achievements of the Llib Dems in Coalition was to raise the profile of mental health within the NHS and Norman Lamb in particular pushed the need for an earmarked expansion of funding so that Mental Health Services (whether we talk about Alzheimers or child psychiatry services) could reach a ‘level playing field’ with physical health matters.

But has this happened?  Two years after the Coalition has ended, there are reports that mental Health Services have been CUT across a wide range of NHS Trusts.  It is fine for Theresa May to talk the talk but does her government walk the walk?

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Rennie reveals “appalling” child mental health waits

There are five key elements to the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ main themes for this General Election. We plant ourselves firmly on the side of the majority of people in Scotland – pro EU, pro UK and progressive. And we say that our priorities for any extra money coming to Scotland are education and mental health. None of this is particularly surprising as Willie Rennie has been banging on about it for years.

The SNP is in charge of health and education in Scotland and has failed miserably on both. This week very poor literacy figures came out. Given every child under 15 has received their entire education under the SNP.

One barrier to being able to make the most of education is poor mental health. Willie has been talking for some time about a constituent whose child had to wait a year for mental health treatment. If you think about it, that’s a sixth of their secondary education. Once proper support begins, it’s not a quick job to restore good health so the impact on children’s lives is real and damaging.

New statistics acquired by the party through freedom of information requests have shown that five big Scottish health boards, including Lothians, Fife and Highland, recorded cases of children waiting over a year for mental health treatment in 2016/17 or on their current waiting lists.

They include children and young people waiting:

666 days in Lothian before starting treatment in 2016/17
623 days in Highland before starting treatment in 2016/17
611 days in Fife currently
448 days in Ayrshire and Arran currently
385 days in Grampian before starting treatment in 2016/17

After publishing the new figures, Willie commented:

It is appalling to learn that children and young people are still waiting almost two years for the mental health treatment they need. Waiting more than 600 days for help must feel like a lifetime. SNP ministers should hang their heads in shame.

These new statistics show why SNP Government was so wrong to reject the opportunity to invest to transform mental health services in its budget. It shows the damage caused by its letting the mental health strategy expire for 15 months. Its replacement has finally been published but charities and pressure groups have rightly declared it lacks ambition, detail and investment.

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Lib Dems would boost mental health care with £1 billion investment

Liberal Democrats have stated that £1 billion of the party’s additional health funding would be spent tackling the “historic injustice” faced by people with mental ill health.

Last weekend, we unveiled a Five Point NHS and Care Recovery Plan to increase funding for health and social care services, including a penny on income tax to provide a £6 billion funding boost.

Today we are saying that £1 billion of this extra money would be ring-fenced as dedicated funding for mental health services.

This would help to deliver on 12 key priorities, including improving waiting time standards for mental health care on the NHS and providing support for pregnant women and young people suffering from mental health problems.

We would  also set out to end the inappropriate use of force against people with mental ill health, end out of area placements for mental health patients and prioritise national action to reduce the number of suicides.

Norman Lamb said:

The Liberal Democrats are committed to ending the historic injustice against people with mental ill health.

Under the Conservative government, services have been stretched to breaking point at a time when the prevalence of mental ill health appears to be rising.

Neither Labour nor the Conservatives have outlined how they will fund mental health services. We’ve made it clear that our priorities will be funded from our ambitious plan to inject £6bn a year into the NHS with an additional penny on income tax.

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In this campaign let’s not focus too hard on Brexit: other things matter to people too

As well as appealing to the 48% of voters who are deeply disenchanted with Brexit, I think there are many other policy areas we need to focus on, if we are to make an electoral breakthrough.

In this week alone, there have been three fatal stabbings in London, innocent people (all men) aged 17, 40 and 60, robbed of their lives because of mindless violence. We have to show that we care about violence and people having the right to live in peaceful streets and neighbourhoods.

Let’s also tackle the inequitable housing situation, whereby overseas buyers are buying up London’s properties at prices that are completely unaffordable for locals – who often aren’t even given a chance to buy them before they are marketed overseas, as apparently happened with the new Heygate development in South East London. Switzerland has placed restrictions on foreign buyers, why can’t we?

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Scottish Liberal Democrats demand answers from Ruth Davidson over mental health cuts to PIP

The Conservatives have not covered themselves in glory on social security issues recently. The removal of Housing Benefit from young people, the totally immoral restriction of benefits to two children and the deeply objectionable 8 page form that women have to complete if they want to claim for a third child conceived by rape, the cuts to disability benefits and cutting back eligibility to Personal Independence Payments for those suffering psychological distress have all shown a cruel lack of understanding of real life.

Let’s not forget the five year benefit freeze imposed by George Osborne in 2015. With Brexit bound to increase prices, that is simply unsustainable.

The cuts are significant, but even more reprehensible is the inhumane stripping of dignity from those who need our help. A civilised society supports those in need. If that makes me a bleeding heart Liberal, as Tim Farron declared he was on Question Time the other night, then I’m proud to be so.

Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives may pretend that they are nicer than their Westminster counterparts, making the right noises on mental health recently, but we can’t forget that they are the same party. Every awful thing that Theresa May’s Brexit government does reflects on them.

As health and social security spokespeople for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Alex Cole-Hamilton and I have written to Ruth Davidson asking her to state her position on the cuts to PIP. Our letter says:

Dear Ruth,

We were pleased to see your party last week join the Liberal Democrats and campaigners in declaring that the SNP Government’s new mental health strategy lacked ambition. It was the right thing to do because the new strategy will not deliver the transformation we desperately need to see.

However, we were deeply concerned to see that, in the very same week, your colleagues at Westminster were voting to restrict personal independence payments to people with mental health and anxiety conditions, affecting tens of thousands of people both in and out of work.

This shows little understanding of the complex needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our society, for example those trapped in their homes because they are too anxious to leave without someone. These people can need help to leave their home every bit as much as someone suffering from a physical condition.

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Freddie Flintoff, Professor Green, Ruby Wax and others talk about their mental health issues

Over the years, here at Liberal Democrat Voice, we have strongly publicised Time to Talk day. On the same theme, the charity campaign Heads Together are publishing a series of videos on YouTube where famous and not famous people talk about their mental health issues.

It really is good to see role models opening up about their problems. Below, you’ll find three of the videos. In the top one, Stephen Manderson (aka Professor Green) and Freddie Flintoff talk. Next down, Ruby Wax talks with her husband, TV producer Ed Bye.

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Changes to Disability Benefits and the Government’s blasé attitude to psychological distress.

Last month the Government announced that it was going to be tightening the criteria for claimants of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which would see those people with mental illnesses stuck without the vital support that they need. The Government has introduced these restrictions after losing two cases at tribunals.

The Tribunal ruled that someone who is unable to undertake a journey without assistance from another person due to psychological distress should be scored in the same way as a person who needs assistance because they have difficulty navigating. Rather than accepting the ruling of the courts, the Government decided to change the legislation and the descriptors to exclude people suffering from some mental health disabilities by inserting the following into the legislation and the descriptors, “for reasons other than psychological distress”.

The Government produced its own analysis of which claimants and conditions are likely to be affected by these changes, 

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Despite fight by Lib Dems, government changes today deny up to 160,000 people suffering from mental health disabilities access to Personal Independence Mobility Component

As we reported less than a month ago, Liberal Democtrats in the Parliament have been fighting the government’s decision to deny disability benefits to 160,000 vulnerable people. The government have refused to listen and the new regulations came into force today.

Stephen Fry tweeted:

He links to this message from Mind, the mental health charity:

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: Children’s Mental Health Week: Nearly two thirds of children feel worried all the time

Nick Clegg has written an article for the Huffington Post to mark Children’s Mental Health Week, highlighting a study which found that nearly two thirds of children feel worried all the time.

As he says, stress and worry are part of life but it’s important that people have the right support when they need it or that stress and worry could develop into mental ill health.

Stress and worry are a part of every walk of life. No job, no task, is without its stresses and strains. During my time as deputy Prime Minister I would have numerous decisions to juggle which would leave me worrying about whether I was making the right choices or not. Luckily I have an amazing family and close friends who gave me all the support I could wish for. Not everyone is as fortunate.

As an adult having to deal with such pressure is extremely difficult to navigate so I can’t imagine what it would be like for a child to feel anxious and stressed all the time. Yet I was surprised to learn this week that nearly two thirds of children say they worry all the time. Accordingly to a new survey published by children’s charity Place2Be 63% of children still at primary school say they worry “all the time” about at least one thing to do with their school life, home life or themselves.

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One mental health first aider per school is not enough

I welcomed Theresa May’s announcement on Monday in which she said “every secondary school in the country to be offered mental health first aid training”. MHFA England has campaigned for many years to get school staff trained in Mental Health First Aid and are thrilled that there will be at least one Mental Health First Aider in each secondary school.

But it doesn’t go far enough. Every single teacher, as part of their teacher training course, should be trained in Mental Health First Aid.

Poppy Jaman, CEO of MHFA England, said:

Mental ill health in young people is a growing health concern, with half of all lifetime cases of mental health issues starting by the age of 14.

There is a bespoke MHFA England course called Youth Mental Health First Aid which could be modified for teacher training. A short course could change a young person’s life.

A teacher overseeing a class of 30+ pupils needs to have the skills to recognise early warning signs of mental ill-health. One first aider per school can help in moments of crisis, but cannot possibly pick up all the mental health warning signs within the school population. A large part of the MHFA course is in learning about various mental health problems (such as stress, anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide ideation, psychosis) and how to intervene early on.

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Our nation’s mental health is a clear and present danger

On Monday, Theresa May’s announcement about mental health came to precious little in money terms – a mere £15m of additional investment to be precise. This despite the fact that Norman Lamb and others have made it clear that extra money that was earmarked for mental health last year has in fact been used to prop up NHS trusts who are suffering from financial difficulties. Mental health is crying out for more money as Isabel Hardman eloquently writes about in the Telegraph today based on her own experience.

The statistics are clear. Research in 2014 found that one in ten people wait over a year just to get an assessment for a talking therapy, while four in ten wait more than three months. Two thirds told the We Need To Talk coalition that they had become more unwell while waiting, with one in six attempting suicide. In 2014, over 6,000 people died from suicide which is 16 per day. Nobody would be happy to wait three months for a broken leg to be treated or to have to travel 300 miles to see their children for a broken arm. Yet this is precisely the state of mental health in the UK today.

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Lib Dem council candidate Ben talks about his Depression

Yesterday my attention was taken by this excellent video of a young man talking about his experiences with Depression posted on the BBC’s The Social Facebook page.

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Now, Theresa, you weren’t really the driving force behind mental health crisis care improvements, now, were you?

So, Theresa May gave an interview to Sky’s Sophy Ridge today in which she gave the biggest signal yet that leaving the single market is very much on the agenda.

In time honoured tradition, there’s a nice petition you can sign if you agree with Tim Farron that “reckless plans to leave the Single Market would make us all poorer.”

But it’s something else she said in her interview that grabbed my attention. She had moved from saying not much actually on Brexit to a very small amount on the NHS to talking about her speech tomorrow. Apparently mental health is a priority of hers. Who knew? The Prime Minister said:

If I can give you an example of something I have already done, when I was in the Home Office one of the issues that concerned me was people in mental health crisis being taken to a police cell as a place of last resort.  It wasn’t good for them, it wasn’t good for the police.  Actually we’ve changed that and we’ve seen the number for whom that happens coming down by 80% and that was a small sum of money that the NHS has been able to put in in order to ensure that there are more, for example more and different places of safety for people …

“I have already done.” Really?

Well, let’s look at an unbiased source, shall we? The Government website which announced this initiative back in 2014 didn’t mention Theresa May anywhere. The main names were Liberal Democrat ministers Nick Clegg and Norman Lamb. Yes, there was Home Office involvement, but it was Lamb who had done all the work bringing it together across government. He was the driving force behind all the mental health measures introduced by the Coalition Government.

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Brian Paddick reveals that over a million days of police time were lost to mental ill health

Even with the best of resources, the job of a police officer is highly stressful. They deal with the most difficult of human circumstances – and often the most dangerous, too.

You would hope that police forces would be mindful of this and would ensure that the mental health of officers was properly looked after. However, research carried out by the Liberal Democrats show that 1.4 million days of police time were lost in the last three years due to mental ill health of both officers and community support officers.

This is worrying both in terms of the impact on the individual officers and on the effectiveness of the force.

Lib Dem Peer Brian Paddick has called for the government to take action to boost the mental health of police officers:

The figures show that mental ill health is widespread among the police service. Frontline officers deal with relentless trauma over years. This issue hasn’t been adequately addressed so far and the government must look at how they address this.

There is a stigma that is deeply embedded in the culture of the police service and it is now time to break it.

Many officers both serving and retired who deal with mental ill health want to be diagnosed and treated more quickly.

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What Lib Dems have been doing on World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day organised by the World Health Organisation. This year’s theme is around offering support to those in psychological distress – mental health first aid.

Norman Lamb has written for the Guardian arguing that there should be parity between physical and mental health in the workplace with employers being required to provide mental health first aid. He said that he had recently done a training course in mental health first aid.

Employers could find that investing in mental health support saves them money given that mental ill health accounts for 70 million days of sickness absence every year.

How can we possibly justify leaving the law as it is? So far as the NHS is concerned the government has committed to the principle of “parity of esteem” between physical and mental illness. Surely they must apply the same logic to the workplace.

Put simply, this is a call for every workplace to have trained mental health first-aiders just like they have physical first-aiders. A number of employers are taking action. WHSmith has committed to match the number of staff that are physical first-aiders with mental health first-aiders over the next 12 months.

There’s a growing momentum for change, and hundreds more businesses across a range of sectors are implementing mental health training for staff from Unilever and Crossrail to Channel 4. Employers have a duty of care to their workforce, and with the scale of mental issues in this country much more needs to be done. The government must act now to ensure every employee has access to mental health support at work.

In a tweet, Tim Farron called for the NHS to be given the resources it needs to tackle mental ill health:

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Mental health awareness was one of the reasons I became a Liberal Democrat

In 2013, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a long-lasting period of depression; a few weeks ago, I was discharged as an out-patient after spending several weeks under a mental health home treatment team, having suffered a manic episode crammed with delusions, little sleep and a somewhat adamant neglect of both food and hygiene (I lost weight and I’m still in desperate need of a barber due to a matted dreadlock that has formed from the absence of a comb during this period).

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Let’s make the UK a better place for those with mental health challenges

 

Imagine being in a situation where you have had months of no sleep, you have lost over 15 kilos in weight when you were already under weight and you cannot do anything but ruminate over problems. You go to your GP, he gives you some shiny pills then tells you to book an appointment in a few weeks, and offers you no therapy or treatment. A few weeks later your mental health deteriorates to a point where you consider self-harm.

That was my story and I am lucky because I am here to tell it. I paid privately for treatment as the only other option was being sectioned under the Mental Health Act, which could have had devastating consequences for my financial and employment prospects. Luckily this episode is well behind me and my life has moved on to a much better place.

Sadly many cannot because they do not have the financial means, or support of family or friends to get through it. Around 4400 people end their own lives in England each year – that’s one death every two hours – and at least 10 times that number attempt suicide.

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Jonny Oates tells House of Lords about his experience of depression

In a speech to the House of Lords yesterday, Liberal Democrat peer Jonny Oates talked about his experience of depression as a young man.

This experience was not unrelated to the times in which he was growing up. As a young gay man, having the government legislate against him was not easy to deal with. He also suggests that the churches should reflect on the impact they can have on people’s mental health, referring to Archbishop Michael Ramsey who was Archbishop of Canterbury at the time homosexuality was legalised and who was supportive of that change in the law.

Here is the speech in full:

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to take part in this important debate on the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health initiated by my noble friend Lady Brinton. As my noble friend said, mental health is a topic which touches almost everyone in this country, whether through direct personal experience or through families and friends who have suffered from mental ill-health.

For much of the time when I was growing up, it was pretty much a taboo subject. Few people talked openly about mental illness; it was too often a personal burden not to be shared, understood or tackled but to be hidden away even from those closest to one. In recent years there has been a welcome shift in our attitudes, and I pay tribute to the mental health charities and the many activists and campaigners, such as Alastair Campbell, who have helped break down taboos and get mental health on the agenda, but I also pay a real and heartfelt tribute to Norman Lamb in particular who, as a Health Minister in the previous Government, strongly supported by the then Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, did so much to push the issue of mental health right up the government agenda, placing mental health literally on the front page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

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Norman Lamb on why improving mental health care is so important to him

This interview with Norman Lamb in the Telegraph.

In it, he talks about why he is so motivated to change mental health care. We knew about how he and his wife Mary have supported their son Archie through battles with OCD and, for the first time, he talks about losing his sister Catherine to suicide last year.

Anyone who has gone through those sorts of experiences, or who has tried to get treatment for mental ill health, will understand the frustrations that he describes and will understand how that drove him on to transform as much as he could while a Minister.

If you have no experience of this particular field, be in no doubt that he is telling the truth.

The Telegraph article has a letter from a 9 year old boy with Depression which was read on the Today programme. It’s horrible to think of a young child going through such pain at all, but when you think they may have to wait years for diagnosis and treatment, it makes you so angry. You need to think of the consequences of that. Think of the impact of a year, or even two years’ wait. Think how much worse a condition can get in that time. There is often no quick fix, either, so there’s more time trying to find something that works. By that time, you’re probably talking about between a quarter and a third of your years in education which have been dominated by ill health. Think of the knock-on effects on life chances, particularly if you are not from an affluent background. It truly is a scandal that we tolerate this as a society.

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