KM Column: Mental Health Awareness Week

One of the most fulfilling aspects of my role is the opportunity and responsibility of offering help to my constituents, often at times of their greatest need.

In recent years, this has included supporting several people who are suffering with mental ill health. Their bravery and clarity in raising their concerns is always enormously inspiring and thankfully, in most  cases, our excellent local NHS mental health services have responded quickly and provided the assistance required.

However, for a variety of reasons, not everyone is able to access such help and more must therefore be done to break down mental health stigma, so people can always feel able to speak openly and seek the assistance they need.

That is why I am supporting the Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health Awareness week, taking place all this week. The annual event is a vital opportunity to percolate changes in attitudes and promote the need for both mental and physical illnesses to be treated with parity and equality.

I welcome the Government’s plans to invest an additional £2.3 billion a year in mental health services, as part of the new NHS long-term-plan, but this isn’t all about money. We also need culture change and policy change to correct the decades of under investment and lack of recognition of mental ill health. 

Policy changes must include a greater focus on prevention and early intervention, ensuring people receive support at the first sign of distress; such as first indications of a child self-harming and complaints of feeling depressed.  We need to create more specialised units and provide more education for carers and advocates; essential too, must be greater consistency across the country to put an end to the current postcode lottery of mental health treatment.

We have come a very long way in how we talk about and treat mental ill health, but we still have some distance to travel.