Ian Shires

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Willenhall North Ward, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Walsall MBC Learn more

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Vince, Luciana and Norman write about mental health

by Ian Shires on 11 October, 2019

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. Three of our MPs wrote articles on different aspects of mental health.

Vince Cable wrote for Times Red Box (£) about his mother’s post natal depression and the impact on their family.

When I was aged ten, shortly after my brother was born, my mother had a breakdown. She had to go into a mental health unit for the best part of a year. My brother was fostered. When she returned from hospital a year later, she was somewhat better, but her confidence had been shattered.

Today it is still young mothers, or children and young people, who because of the underlying problems in mental health services, are often those who are struggling to get help. Even generally, over half of adults with a diagnosed mental health problem have to wait four weeks to see a specialist. These long waiting times can only make the mental health crisis worse.

And what did he learn about what helps people to recover?

One of the things that really helped my mother improve, both in terms of her mental health and in terms of confidence, was adult education.

Engaging with others, having a supportive structure, did wonders for her wellbeing. That is why the Liberal Democrats will deliver mental health support, not just through the NHS but through communities and throughout society.

By creating a reward scheme for employers who invest in the mental wellbeing of their employees, restoring funding of ‘early help’ services that were cut by the Conservatives, and improving training for health professionals in spotting signs of postnatal depression, the Liberal Democrats will deliver better mental health support for everyone, and ensure help is there before problems becomes crises.

Image result for luciana berger lib demLuciana Berger has long campaigned on mental health issues. For Rethink Mental Illness, she wrote about suicide prevention at a strategic and an individual level:

For every NHS Trust to adopt a zero-suicide policy requires investment. Public money should be allocated to suicide prevention within the NHS, prison service, police, social services, armed services, and other agencies and organisations. Public health budgets can’t continue to be raided; our mental health services are stretched to breaking point.

There are plenty of things we as individuals can do too. We can be open about our thoughts and feelings and inculcate a culture of talking about mental health at home, in school, at college and in the workplace. By encouraging an end to mental health stigma, we can shift our public culture towards one of understanding, acceptance and support – a journey we are all on.

And a word for the media:

Lastly, I reiterate my plea to news organisations to review their approach to reporting suicide and pledge to do nothing to glamorise, promote or misinform people about suicide. So often the choice of words, the use of images, and the types of story can make a tragic situation much worse and may even encourage others to contemplate suicide. Each and every suicide is preventable. There is always a point when a suicide could have been stopped. So, let us recommit to a zero-suicide approach, and to end suicide for good.

Image result for norman lamb lib demFinally, Norman Lamb argued in an article for Politics Home that the Student Mental Health Charter should be enshrined in legislation.

Why shouldn’t we have a target of zero for suicide, he asks?

We need to be thinking seriously about where else we can expand the Zero Suicide commitment, taking the challenge beyond the healthcare system. If we were to get universities to commit to the Zero Suicide pledge, we have the potential to completely transform a sector where too frequently we hear tragic stories of young people who have taken their own lives….

There is currently a crisis in student mental health, and provision is in many cases very poor. I recently gained some insight into the scale of the problem when I conducted a Freedom of Information survey into mental health provision at UK universities. The findings were depressing. Too many universities simply don’t have a handle on the state of their provision. Over a quarter of universities were unable to provide a figure for a specific mental health budget. Shockingly, over 75% were unable to tell us how long students were waiting to see a counsellor in each of the last five years…

Clearly urgent action needs to be taken. I’m now calling for a Student Mental Health Charter, which would guarantee students the right to a good standard of evidence-based mental health provision and a focus on suicide prevention. The only way to get all universities to improve their services is to make the Charter legally enforceable – either by enshrining it in legislation or by making it a condition of state funding…

And a cornerstone of this Charter would be a commitment to Zero Suicide. This is a new idea – bringing the pledge in from the healthcare system, conducting trials at universities across the country, building up the evidence base and designing a programme which all higher education institutes could adopt. It has huge and significant potential.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron’s Musings

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