Most of the media attention is focused on what the two candidates – Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt - have promised on Brexit, but the debate can't stop there. The new leader will ultimately be responsible for countless other areas of policy, including mental health.
Here at Mind, as you'd expect, we're doing all we can to ensure the next Prime Minister not only understands why mental health is such a critical issue right now, but also agrees to prioritise it when he take the keys to Number 10.
While very few would argue that Theresa May was perfect, we did at least know that mental health was on her radar: she set out her intention to address the 'burning injustice' of poor mental health services in her very first speech as Prime Minister back in 2016 and has made a series of commitments since then. Whether or not she has managed to tackle that burning injustice is of course open to debate – but the bigger question now is whether the next leader will show any interest in the issue at all, given everything else that is on the table.
That's why we've written to both candidates with our list of six priority areas, demanding their urgent attention.
We've made clear that mental health services are failing in parts of the country, with two-thirds of people with common mental health problems still not receiving any treatment at all. We've set out evidence of the growing crisis in young people's mental health, and explained that all too often the benefits system, far from supporting people, adds to their distress and anxiety and pushes them further away from work.
We've urged them to bring the Mental Health Act into the 21st Century so that people can have a say over their own treatment and expect to be treated with dignity and compassion, and we've also made clear that they’ll need to look beyond the NHS if they really want to improve mental health – addressing issues such a housing, employment protections, and social care to name but a few.
So will it work? Will we be able to cut through the Brexit noise? Well, there are reasons to be positive. Mental health has been steadily moving up the political agenda for several years now, and it's come a long way.
Back in 2012, I remember celebrating when the first set of MPs talked candidly about their own mental health problems in Parliament, during a debate on the Mental Health (Discrimination Act). At the time this was unprecedented, and colleagues and I sat open-mouthed at our desks, watching the debate unfold.
By the time the 2015 General Election was announced things had already moved on, and each of the political parties included a modest section on mental health in their election manifestos - something that hadn't been the case in the 2010 Election. And by 2017, there were more mentions of mental health in the election manifestos than there were for any other health condition, in any other election, since 1945! Hence the 'burning injustices' speech when Theresa May took office.
None of this happened by accident: it happened because people with mental health problems, their families and friends, people working in the health sector, and those working in organisations like Mind came together to demand it.
As a nation, our expectations for better mental health have grown higher than ever, and we won’t tolerate second-rate services any longer.
The political interest in mental health hasn’t yet translated in to universally good services and support though – far from it. At Mind we hear from thousands of people each month who struggling to get the help they need, and our mission to keep fighting until everyone with mental health problems gets both support and respect remains as critical as ever.
That’s why it’s essential that we keep the pressure on the Government, and the new prime minister, to not only deliver the things that have already been promised, such as the extra £2.3bn a year for mental health, but to go further in their approach and put mental health at the heart of their agenda. We will keep fighting to ensure they do, and we hope we can continue to rely on your support.
We've written the two leadership candidates outlining six mental health priorities for the new prime minister's administration: Time to deliver