The Bournemouth effect?
Posted Tuesday 22 September 2009
The party conference season traditionally kicks off with the Lib Dems, this year in Bournemouth. This is a good conference venue - sea air, pleasant walks and friendly people. Or so we thought....
The Time to Change roadshow was in town talking mental health to conference delegates and members of the public, in the main shopping area just outside Debenhams. Many people the team spoke to were happy to see us. But some just scowled, and a few came up to the stand to tell us why there isn't enough discrimination against people with mental health problems. If ever we needed a reminder why we have to stand up for mental health, and the work still to do, here it was.
Inside the Conference, we had a friendlier welcome. This year, all parties are preparing for a General Election, and our job is to ensure that mental health gets a high profile as manifestos get written. The Lib Dems have a good understanding, and their Shadow Health Secretary is a terrific advocate for mental health. Norman Lamb is also a rock music impresario-he mortgaged his house to invest in his son's music business, and they've now signed up cool grime artist Tinchy Stryder. Norman is now seen as an unlikely equivalent of Simon Cowell and disappeared after our meeting to review Mika's new album.
But there's a catch - there's no money. Even Vince Cable, Britain's most trusted politician and hot favourite for Strictly Come Dancing 2010, warned in his speech that some of the issues he's campaigned for, including mental health, may have to wait for new investment.
So the word of the Conference is reprioritisation. We (and others) will have to make a strong case for the prioritisation of mental health over other issues. So where do we start - Trident, ID cards, other parts of the NHS? Your thoughts are welcome-it's going to be a bumpy ride....
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive
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