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The event - ‘Mental Health: Raising the Bar’ took place in the House of Commons in Westminster, Central London, with the aim of promoting conversations between people with mental health problems, local Minds responsible for providing services and policymakers.
Speakers included Jackie Doyle-Price, Conservative MP for Thurrock and Minister for Care and Mental Health; Barbara Keeley, Labour MP for Worsley and Eccles South and Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Social Care; and Helen Whately, Conservative MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, who kindly sponsored the event.
Nearly 50 MPs from across the breadth of England and Wales were also in attendance to listen to the experiences of people affected by poor mental health and many of them showed their commitment to ‘raising the bar’ for mental health services by putting their names to a pledge board.
Also present were representatives from several local Minds. Around 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year, but, despite this high prevalence of poor mental health across the country, the discussions that took place at the event highlighted that many people still aren’t getting the support they need.
This parliamentary event comes at a key time. The Government recently accepted all the recommendations made within the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health – the five-year plan for improving services and support for people with mental health problems - and committed an additional £1 billion to transform mental health services between now and 2020/2021. NHS England is also now required to regularly share local data on mental health services through a new ‘mental health dashboard’, enabling anyone to hold them to account. The figures show whether or not local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are meeting their targets when it comes to a number of measures, such as access rates and waiting times for talking therapies.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
“One in four people will experience a mental health problem in the coming year. Mental health problems can affect anyone, no matter what their background. The Government has recognised the scale of the problem and is increasing investment in mental health services over the next five years, but after years of underfunding, this additional money can’t come soon enough. There’s still a great deal of unmet need - every day we hear from people struggling to access the support they need.
“This event provided a valuable opportunity for MPs to meet and listen to people’s first-hand experiences of mental health services as well as finding out about some of the work our network of local Minds do to support people in the local community. By participating in this event, we hope that MPs recognise the importance of mental health and the vital role they play in ensuring that those of us living with mental health problems across England and Wales get the services and support we need to recover, stay well and lead fulfilling lives.”
Jaabir is 32 and lives in North London. He was diagnosed with depression in 2014, and then later with borderline personality disorder (BPD). He believes his mental health problems are linked to the death of his father when he was 12. Jaabir has used Mind’s social network Elefriends for support as well as some local Mind services for the past three years.
“I received some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), but unfortunately, it wasn’t quite right for me. After a couple of sessions I was supposed to just get on with my life – which made me feel that there was something wrong with me, that I was a hopeless case.
“The ongoing support I receive from Mind in Haringey helps me to put things into perspective and I'm starting to feel more comfortable. It shouldn’t just be down to mental health charities to provide support for people with mental health problems though, we desperately need quality mental health services available through the NHS. That’s why I’m supporting Mind in calling on local MPs to commit to raising the bar for mental health services in London and giving it the priority it deserves.”
Denise is 50 and lives near Bristol. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1991 aged 25, but has had mental health problems since her teens. Antidepressants keep her reasonably well most of the time. Denise is a mental health nurse and trained over 30 years ago. She came off benefits and tried to return to work, but suffered a massive relapse after just six weeks and ended up losing her job. More recently she had a job offer withdrawn on the basis of her mental health and took her would-be employer to Tribunal. She is now receiving Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
“The questions in my PIP assessment were irrelevant. It’s difficult to portray the extreme fluctuations you get with any mental health problem, particularly bipolar. I looked at advice on descriptors online before I went. This amount of money is not a luxury, it allows me to have the extra things that help keep me well and out of hospital, for example keeping a pet.
“I live on a boat alone and having two kittens makes a massive difference to my wellbeing. Although I was deemed eligible for PIP, I receive less money than I did on DLA, as I lost the mobility component rather than the care one. I’m currently receiving ESA for my mental and physical health problems. I do want to go back to work as a mental health nurse but sadly discrimination against people with mental health problems is still rife among employers.”
Full list of local Minds in attendance: