We sent our manifesto to all parties in the upcoming General Election and asked them to write a blog about how they will approach mental health if they form the next government. Here's what The Green Party had to say.
The Green Party’s vision for Britain is a confident and caring country.
But sometimes it’s hard to picture, in the face of Tory policies which feel like a direct attack on our welfare and mental health.
An extreme Brexit. A crumbling welfare state. An environment under threat.
We live in the fifth richest country in the world.
In such a country no renter should have to live in damp, cold, and neglected accommodation, no parent should have to compete with other parents to find their child a decent school, no one should have to wait ten hours in an emergency ward before getting the care and attention they need.
We’re in the throes of a mental health crisis. One in four of us will experience a mental health problem each year. When you consider the impact of the situation outlined above it is, sadly, not a surprise. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t fix it – and we have a very real opportunity to do just that on June 8.
The Green Party has a three-pronged approach to tackling the mental health crisis in the UK. We must prevent poor mental health from a young age, help those who are already suffering, and invest properly in both prevention and treatment by ensuring parity of esteem with physical health.
This means making sure the NHS functions properly. We know we have a world class health system, but the Conservative Government’s repeated cuts have left it on its knees. It’s not a question of can we pay for it? It’s simply a question of how we pay for it. Proper care for the ill should be a red line.
Properly taxing the rich or scrapping the Trident nuclear weapons system and pouring the money into the NHS instead would make a world of difference. The cost of Trident is £3.6 billion every year and with this money we could employ 85,000 extra NHS staff. That’s what real security looks like.
But treatment alone is not enough. The Green Party would tackle the risk of mental ill-health before it became a problem. This means overhauling the Tories’ damaging policies - banning zero hour contracts, introducing a living wage, making sure everyone has a safe, warm home.
We aren’t afraid to introduce bold new ideas like awareness and empathy education in schools to limit the likelihood of bullying. Fitting in just an hour a week where children work through lessons and exercises that teach them their own self-worth and worth of their peers could make a big difference to the way they think about themselves and treat others.
School-based therapy should also be an option so everyone can access the help they need, no matter their age, location or background.
And this open dialogue around mental health should continue through all forms of education.
In March, a student from Bristol University took her own life, making her the fifth student from the university to commit suicide this academic year. However, the university has insisted there is no link between any of the incidents and that annual figures did not show any trends.
But only last week new statistics revealed the number of university dropouts due to mental health problems has trebled. The crucial first step to solving the problem is to talk about it, and a swift denial from the university helps no one.
Without the political will to start the conversation it might seem like an uphill battle. The Government has slashed the proportion of the public health budget spent on mental health from 1.4 per cent in 2013-14 to 0.7 per cent in 2015-16. Meanwhile, Theresa May continues to make empty promises to solve Britain’s mental health crisis.
The Green Party however is dedicated to building a confident and caring country – whether it’s by tackling the social problems to contribute to poor mental health, or investing in our NHS so we can support those who are suffering - very often alone and in silence - with the weight of a mental health illness.
We have the choice on June 8 about what kind of country we want to be – we just need to choose wisely.