It was with some surprise recently, on checking my phone between meetings, that I found #generalelection suddenly trending on social media. While Brexit may be the dominant issue in this election, there is another very important matter that must not become lost in the debate - better mental health and, in particular, the provision of sufficient funding for mental health services.
The shortfall in service provision nationally is laid out in stark terms in the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, a report of the Independent Mental Health Task Force commissioned by the NHS and published in February 2016. Every year, one in four adults experiences a diagnosable mental health problem. Half of all mental health problems have been established by the age of 14, and one in ten children between the ages of 5 - 16 has a diagnosable condition.
Yet most children and young people receive little or no support, and those that do commonly endure considerable waiting times. We know that what happens in these early stages has long term impact on young people’s life outcomes, with issues around academic achievement, drug dependency, family and interaction with the criminal justice system.
One in five mothers experiences mental illness during pregnancy and the year after childbirth, yet there is serious deficiency in services. Other groups at particular risk include homeless people, older persons, ex-armed forces personnel and marginalised groups such as black and minority ethnic, LGBT communities and those in the criminal justice system - nine out of ten people in prison have a mental health, drug or alcohol problem.
Progress has been made in beginning to address these issues, with plans to increase funding over the period to 2021 set out in the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health. It is vital however that, whatever party forms our next Government, a renewed commitment is made to funding the implementation of these recommendations.
Funding for services is not the only issue we face in promoting better mental health - it is vital to continue raising awareness, challenging negative attitudes and reducing stigma, while equipping individuals and communities with the tools and resources they need to survive and thrive. Better access to research is also key. However, when one looks at the current state of mental health services, there is no denying that funding is a significant part of the equation. Considerable strides have been made in recent times in opening up awareness of mental health issues across many sectors of society, and expectations have been raised about the quality and accessibility of help and support that will be available.
At Solent Mind, we are apolitical, with no party political ties. We will work with politicians of whatever persuasion to achieve our vision - that everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets both support and respect. The people who use our services, as well as our staff and volunteers, the majority of whom have personal experience of mental health issues themselves, should expect no less from us.
Nationally, Mind has published a general election manifesto which you can read here.
Whatever the outcome of the election, let's aim to have a Government that is committed to delivering the funding required for mental health services, and a Parliament that is sufficiently aware of the importance of the issue to effectively hold it to account.
Till next time,