What do the party manifestos mean for mental health?
Posted Friday 16 April 2010
This week, the election campaign is fully under way as we see the parties launch their manifestos. It's probably the best indication of where mental health sits as a priority for a new Government.
The signs are encouraging, with some recurring themes. The Labour manifesto promises to increase the number of therapists (although makes no promises on reducing waiting times), and makes a clear commitment to tackle stigma.
There's also commitment to the mental health of ex-servicemen, and support for people looking for work. Labour Election Co-Ordinator Douglas Alexander defended his party's commitment to increasing the number of therapists on the Radio 4 PM programme on 12 April (this is available to listen to until Monday 19 April. You can hear the discussion 17 minutes in to the broadcast).
The Conservatives too support an increase in talking treatments, and plan to improve services for veterans. Their manifesto also addresses work issues for people who are long-term unemployed.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats, as well as sharing support for more therapists, outline an increase in mental health funding which in turn generates a long term saving to the economy under Vince Cable's stewardship.
So far so good. But all make reference to tough times ahead, and we are already hearing of some mental health services threatened with cutbacks, particularly in London
So what does this all mean?
First of all, this election appears to be extremely close. There's a chance for all of us to influence the outcome, and to quiz candidates on their views on mental health, so I'd encourage as many people as possible to engage with candidates, and vote.
Politics doesn't exactly have a great reputation at the moment, but we can all influence that. Just ten years ago, Mind lobbied hard to change the law to give psychiatric inpatients the right to vote in a general election. It's vital that this right is upheld – so as a first step, make sure you register to vote by 20 April.
Secondly, it's a credit to our We Need to Talk partners that there's widespread recognition of the need for further development of access to talking treatments, and much needed at a time when funding cuts could threaten this.
It is clear that mental health is now recognised by all three parties as an important issue, and one which could emerge as a touchstone in a new Government. The way society treats this issue should be a litmus test for good government.
Let the campaign continue!
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive
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