What does "one nation" mean for mental health?
Posted Monday 29 October 2012
This morning I went along to the Royal College of Psychiatrists' office to hear Ed Miliband's speech on mental health - and I was rather excited. Partly because I'm a bit of a politics nerd, but more because of what the speech represented.
Ed, the Leader of the Labour party, has a million things in his in-tray.
A challenging economy, rising energy prices, badgers, you name it. And yet he chose to speak to the national media about mental health.
Whether or not you agree with his politics, the very fact that he made this speech is a good thing - it's a sign that the subject we've been campaigning about for so long is moving up the political agenda.
Ed started by saying that mental health is one of the biggest challenges facing Britain - affecting millions of people, old and young, rich and poor, in the north and in the south. He acknowledged the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems, preventing them from seeking help, telling their employers, or reaching out to family and friends. And he urged us to fight against this last form of intolerance just as we have fought against racism, sexism and homophobia.
The speech also touched on the failings of the Work Capability Assessment, the role of employers, and the need for more and better crisis care - all areas you have told us are important and that we campaign on.
He argued that successive governments had prioritised physical health over mental health, and promised that a Labour government would reverse this by rewriting the NHS Constitution to guarantee access to services, integrating physical and mental health services and expanding the use of personal health budgets.
But the language around cuts to mental health services was guarded.
When we asked you what you thought the most pressing issue in mental health was, you told us that it was access to services. And having spoken to many of our local Minds over the last few weeks, it's clear that service providers are being asked to do more with less as local authorities and the NHS try to make savings. I'm not sure what the Labour party would do to stop this.
Nonetheless, for me the speech is another indication of a good year for mental health in Parliament. MPs' understanding of mental health is increasing all the time. The Mental Health Discrimination Bill is making its way through the Commons with support from all sides. And some MPs even feel able to talk about their own mental health problems. Mind will be hoping to harness this increasing understanding when we launch the next phase of our Crisis Care campaign next month.
I know that a lot of people are cynical about politics, and often with good reason: parliament still seems to be dominated by able-bodied, privileged white men; the 'Punch and Judy' atmosphere of Prime Ministers Questions makes politics look silly; and the expenses scandal ruined many people's faith in politicians. I'm not quite so cynical, however, because the majority of the MPs I meet work hard to make life better for their constituents. They're motivated not by power or greed, but by a desire to bring about change.
Whatever your attitude to politics and politicians, the fact remains that the decisions made in Westminster affect all of our lives. That's why it's so important to ensure that politicians are talking about mental health - and if the Leader of the Labour Party is doing so, you can be sure that others are too.
Louise Kirsh, Mind's Parliamentary Manager
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