Today the UK heads to the polls to place their vote. Mind CEO, Paul Farmer blogs about the important mental health issues that face the next government and why it's important to get out to vote today.
"Today the nation goes to the polls to vote for our next government."
Over the past few weeks thousands of you have campaigned with us to make sure that whoever wins today puts mental health at the heart of its agenda, sending Mind’s manifesto to candidates of all parties and highlighting our priorities. It’s been an amazing collective effort and the impact we have had can’t be ignored.
In the last general election we managed for the first time to get mental health on the agenda for every major political party. As a result, over the last two years we have secured an extra £1bn for mental health services and the launch of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, a five-year plan that, if delivered, will see real progress not just for NHS mental health services but across various government departments and public services. It’s just the start and, against a backdrop of cuts and rising demand, we have yet to see change happen on the frontline and we know that many are still not getting the help they need. But I believe that this plan has huge potential to begin to redress years of neglect and underfunding in the NHS and other public services.
This time around parties are building on their previous commitments and going even further in pledging to do better not just for the one in four of us who will experience a mental health problem every year, but for the mental wellbeing of the nation. We can tell they are listening and taking on board what we are saying.
This is in part down to the growing profile of mental health as an issue that affects everyone. Mental health is being discussed like never before – even members of the Royal family have talked opening about their own mental health and it doesn’t get much more high-profile than that.
"As more people join the ranks of those willing to speak out about mental health, the demand for change is unstoppable."
However, for all the progress being made, we know that the day-to-day reality for many is that services and support are not there when people need them. We hear endless report of long waits for therapy, bed shortages, stretched community mental health teams and people ending up in police cells when in crisis.
We speak to people every day whose lives have been made worse and worse by a benefits system that treats them with suspicion and a complete lack of understanding of the realities of living with a mental health problem, who would rather go hungry than engage with a process that makes them more unwell.
We know that thousands are still struggling in silence, afraid to speak out about what they are experiencing for fear of being judged, of being discriminated against, of losing their jobs.
The consequences of failing people with mental health problems can be catastrophic. We lose 6,000 people a year to suicide, many of whom have been let down by some part of a society that isn’t yet equipped to make sure they get the support they need to live the life they want to.
"It’s clear then that there is a huge amount to do, which is why we have six key priorities for the next government."
We are calling on those in power to commit to transforming mental health services, employment opportunities and community support, as well as overhauling the benefits and back-to-work system with a focus on support not sanctions. We also want them to commit to improving awareness and attitudes towards mental health and scrap outdated, discriminatory legislation that prevents people with mental health problems accessing the support they need to live full, independent lives.
Thank you to all of you who have joined us in fighting for what all of us with mental health problems need and deserve. We all need now to go out and vote for the party we think can rise to the challenge of putting mental health front and centre of public services and policy-making. This is a deeply personal choice of course, and one that only you can make. If you haven’t yet made up your mind about who to vote for, check out our round up of each party’s pledges on mental health.
Whatever happens today, Mind will continue to campaign on the issues that affect us all. If you are not already a Mind campaigner, sign up to join the thousands already driving the change we are seeing. This is a critical moment for mental health and it’s our job to keep up the pressure on whoever forms our next government make sure everyone with mental health problems gets the support and respect we deserve.
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Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.