May: Let's tackle the "hidden injustice" of mental illness

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May: Let's tackle the "hidden injustice" of mental illness

Mental health training for schools and investment in digital mental health services are among measures announced by Prime Minister Theresa May to tackle the “injustice” of mental illness.

Delivering the annual Charity Commission lecture on Monday 9 January, May said she wished to “employ the power of government as a force for good to transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society”.

She said: "For too long mental illness has been something of a hidden injustice in our country, shrouded in a completely unacceptable stigma and dangerously disregarded as a secondary issue to physical health. 

"Yet left unaddressed, it destroys lives, it separates people from each other and deepens the divisions within our society."

May spoke of the “crippling” long-term effects mental health conditions can have for many sufferers. Children with behavioural disorders are four times more likely to be dependent on drugs and six times more likely to die before the age of 30, she said.

To tackle this, the government is implementing plans that aim to “make mental health an everyday concern for every bit of the system”. These include:

  • Mental health first aid training for all secondary schools
  • A Care Quality Commission-led review of children and adolescent mental health services throughout the UK
  • Partnership programs with employers to improve mental health support in workplaces
  • Investment in new models of community-based care, such as crisis cafes and community clinics, to provide an alternative for those who feel that visiting their GP is not the right intervention
  • Plans to invest in and expand digital mental health services
  • Reforming "unfair" and "inappropriate" practices such as high charges for GP forms declaring that someone is affected by mental illness. 

May’s speech forms part of the government’s formal response to the Mental Health Taskforce’s Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, which contained 58 recommendations. The response can be read in full here.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said: “Mental health should be at the heart of government, and at the heart of society and communities – it’s been on the periphery for far too long.”

“We welcome the announcements around a focus on prevention in schools and workplaces and support for people in crisis. The proof will be in the difference it makes to the day-to-day experience of the one in four who will experience a mental health problem this year.”

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