23 November 2015

Sign your name

Image courtesy of fantasista/
Earlier this month, a major campaign was launched to try to persuade the government to increase investment in mental health services.

The Equality for Mental Health campaign is being led by MP Norman Lamb, whose son was diagnosed with OCD at the age of 15, and has the support of hundreds of high profile figures from all walks of life.

It's great to see mental health hitting the headlines again and also to see the growing momentum in the work being done to achieve 'parity of esteem' between mental and physical healthcare.

The campaign, described as 'cross-party and cross-society', highlights 10 of its concerns on its website. This list features some truly scandalous facts; the standout ones for me were:

  • Only 15% of people who might benefit from talking therapy actually get this.
  • Three-quarters of children and young people with mental health problems receive no treatment at all.
  • Children are sometimes admitted to adult hospital wards, due to a shortage of beds.
  • Until April this year, there was no maximum waiting time for treatment for mental ill health - this is now 18 weeks.

Just imagine applying any of the above to physical health problems. Suppose only 15% of people who needed heart surgery had it. Or those with kidney disease received no treatment whatsoever. Or children recovering from an operation had to share a ward with adults. Such situations would simply never be countenanced.

As Ruby Wax, comedian and mental health advocate, said: 'They [the government] don't comprehend that mental illness is a physical problem - it just happens to be your brain, which is another organ.'

The knock-on effect of not addressing mental health problems is significant, both on the individuals concerned and society as a whole, not least the impact on the NHS and employment figures. One of the most shocking points raised by this campaign is that people with long-term mental health conditions live on average 20 years less than the general population - suicide is presumably a contributory factor.

Following the list of key concerns is this plea: 'We urge the government to seize the opportunity to end this historic injustice and commit the investment that will lead to an economically and socially stronger Britain.'

If you're a UK resident, please sign the petition to lend your support ahead of the announcement of the 2015 Comprehensive Spending Review, on Wednesday. No doubt this particular battle will go on into the future and this petition is a chance for you to make your voice heard.

With 1 in 4 people suffering from a mental health condition, we all know somebody who is affected, and who might benefit from better investment in services. And you never know when you might become one of the 1 in 4 yourself.

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