St Albans councillor calls for more investment in mental health services following PM’s speech
PUBLISHED: 17:00 12 January 2017
The unveiling of plans to reform mental health services to stop the “burning injustice and inadequate treatment” has been applauded in St Albans.
Prime Minister Theresa May, delivering the annual Charity Commission lecture on Monday (9), spoke of mental illness being “something of a hidden injustice in our country, shrouded in a completely unacceptable stigma and dangerously disregarded as a secondary issue to physical health.”
Pledging to bring to fruition a package of measures to transform support in schools, workplaces and communities, Mrs May announced a series of steps to “deal with mental health problems at every stage of a person’s life”. These include:
• Piloting new approaches such as offering mental health first aid training for teachers and staff to help them identify and assist children experiencing problems.
• By 2021, no child will be sent away from their local area to be treated for a general mental health condition.
• Mental wellbeing in the workplace will be better supported. Experts in the field will work with leading employers and mental health groups to create a new partnership with industry, to help reduce absence, while improving health and productivity.
• Up to £15 million of extra funding will be made available to support a range of preventative services in the community.
• Millions of pounds will also be invested in digital mental health services. Mrs May said: “Online therapy has the potential to transform the way mental health services are delivered by allowing people to check their symptoms.”
• There will be an end to the way in which GP forms deal with mental health and debt – some people have to prove their ill health to debt collectors, and pay their doctor to fill in a form to do so. But this process can worsen both mental illness and financial difficulties.
St Albans mental health champion, district councillor Anthony Rowlands, commenting on the PM’s speech, said: “Additional investment is required, not just shuffling existing resources”.
But, he pointed out, it was “proof of just how far this issue has risen up the political agenda, and rightly so. For far too long mental health has been in the shadows and a low priority.
“The Government has admitted that young people’s mental health is the weakest area of the National Health Service.”
An estimated one in four people has a common mental disorder at any one time. And for children, one in 10 has a diagnosable condition.
Cllr Rowlands welcomed the new commitment to provide mental health first aid training for teachers.
However, he added, “Local teachers I have spoken to will be persuaded that fundamental change is underway only when more money reaches the front line and access to services is dramatically improved.”
Cllr Rowlands said that every tier of government needed to work “in a coordinated fashion, and with the backing of the Treasury to deal effectively with this crisis.”