World Mental Health Day #timetochange

time to changeThose of you who have read previous contributions from me to Lib Dem Voice will know that at the very top of my list of priorities as a health minister is to transform the care and support for people with mental health problems.  Every year, the Mental Health Foundation – one of Britain’s leading mental health research and policy charities – holds World Mental Health day, to raise awareness of different mental health conditions.  Mental health has always struggled to attract the same attention as physical health conditions, and initiatives like this have played a valuable role in gradually turning the tide.

As many will know from personal or family experiences, mental health conditions can affect people in different ways.  People are also sometimes hesitant to tell others about the problems they are experiencing and seek help.  It is crucial that we ensure there is the same level of access to crisis mental health care as there is to physical health care, and that there are appropriate maximum waiting times for treatment.  But we have to go further.

There is a tremendous amount of evidence to suggest that people with mental health conditions benefit from being in work, and do better in health terms as a result.  And so we need to bring mental health support into the workplace – to identify problems as they are developing, and help those who are in work to stay in work.

For this reason, I am delighted that as of today, thirteen Government departments have formally committed to the Time to Change initiative. Where organisations are able to reduce mental health stigma in the workplace and ensure that support is available to those who need it, there is clear evidence that staff absenteeism and job turnover decrease, with productivity improving.  I have committed to trying to get every department signed up – and this is a good start.

Every organisation is different, so Time to Change doesn’t set out a “one size fits all” template to follow.  Rather, we are encouraging organisations to set out realistic action plans which they should genuinely be able to deliver.  Simple steps like making information about mental health conditions available to employees, and talking about mental health in internal newsletters and magazines can make a real difference.  Organisations can also make sure that staff (especially managers) have training at recognising symptoms of mental health conditions and providing mental health ”first aid” to those who need support.

However, World Mental Health Day is not just about large organisations and government departments.  Really, today is about what we can each do ourselves to end mental health stigma and support those around us who are suffering with mental health problems.  The Time to Change website sets out some simple things you can do yourself.  Take a look.  And pass the message on: when it comes to mental health, there is nothing more important than simply talking about it.

Update: Norman Lamb, Tessa Munt and Nick Clegg supporting the Time to Change Pledge today.


* Norman Lamb is MP for North Norfolk and was Liberal Democrat Minister of State at the Department of Health until May 2015. He now chairs the Science and Technology Select Committee

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  • Melanie Harvey 10th Oct '13 - 3:52pm

    I fear those with problems are in danger of having to wear a tag in declaration of their insanity in the long term?????. There is a many fine lines with this and I see a lot of rights being lost.

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Oct '13 - 10:38pm

    Thanks Norman. It is good to know that there are initiatives like this around for workplaces.

  • richardheathcote 11th Oct '13 - 12:25pm

    I would like some help with regards a mental health matter. My brother has suffered with Schizoaffective disorder for a number of years. Over the last 14 years he has gone through a cycle of treatment in the community where he doesn’t like to take the prescribed meds due to horrible side-effects and is usually given a depot injection. His biggest problem over the last 14 years is he smoked canabis in an attempt to deal with symptoms resulting in his health deteriorating and admission to the local mental health units for periods of up to 12 months with sections being enforced. normally once his health settles down he is discharged under the care of cpn’s who are supposed to monitor his medication at home which they rarely do. They never follow the community care orders forcing him to take his medication resulting in his deterioration then the cycle starts again. This time is different he has now been detained for over 12 months and they have just secured another 12 month section bearing in mind he has never threatened or hurt anyone or threatened harm to himself, he has never committed any crime bar smoking canabis as a means of treating symptoms. He has currently been transferred at great expense to a rehabilitation unit in Macclesfield meaning visits are difficult as its a 50 mile round trip from where we live. He doesn’t want to do rehabilitation so the process is a waste of time his health is as good as it will ever be apart from the fact he is trapped in hospital with no liberties or freedom. His Doctor wanted him to be treated at home from March this year but was over ruled by the cpn in charge who seems to be making it a personal aim to get my brother off canabis. I am struggling with the fact he has no chance of getting out for the next 12 months and its shocking he can be detained for so long without committing or being charged with any crime. Id welcome any advice on steps to take to get him released from a pointless punitive treatment he is being forced to take part in.

  • For years I’d go to Institute of Consulting (AIBA, AIBC and now IC) seminars and when the “introduce yourself” bit came up I’d say, “We’re psychodynamic consultants” and they’d say, “What?”
    And I’d say, “Well – we do what a lot of consultants do. We look at the structure and draw an organisational map and look at job titles and functions and responsibilities. What is special is that we look at how the unconscious dynamics of that organisation meshes or doesn’t mesh with the unconscious dynamics of the people who make it up and how that can cause problems.  People in “caring” organisations often realise the importance of this – though less frequently recently – and self-reflective groups, Balint seminars, or other work discussion groups of various kinds are not uncommon. But the method can work in all sorts of professions – police, educational, journalistic, and in mainstream industries like construction.
    The problem with the “time to change” initiative as it is presented here is that there seems to be the assumption that people with mental problems have a specific “thing” whether you call it a disease or a syndrome or whatever, and that it can be dealt with by sending them off for treatment and thereby getting it cured.  Access to treatment and less stigma should deal with the problem. But when you look at people in an organisation who exhibit some form of disturbance it is quite likely that it is that organisation itself that is causing the problem. But  that diagnosis is likely to be strongly resisted by members,   especially those who are not themselves showing symptoms. They tend to see it as a personal attack as well as a waste of time and resources.
    What makes an organisation unhealthy? Many things; but a common factor in social provision is the contradiction whereby the organisation has to function under severe budgetary restraint but is unable to acknowledge this and instead is pressured to pretend that its functions, however limited, provide as good or better a service as previously. In other cases, management deals with constraints by increasing the workload and/or pressure on staff while insisting that this extra work is all manageable. When these sorts of thing happens, some staff will respond to the organisational dysfunction (or dishonesty, or corruption) by acting out with mental health symptoms – but the true locus of the problem is the organisation itself. Conversely, a healthy organisation will create an environment that lessens the potential for mental and physical illness in its staff group: this is where the evidence that people with mental health conditions benefit from being in work probably comes in.

    But don’t worry! This is only psychobabble.

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