‘Question marks’ over mental health pledge

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A leading psychiatrist has questioned Theresa May’s plans for a comprehensive package of measures for mental health support in schools, workplaces and communities.

Delivering the annual Charity Commission lecture, Mrs May said that mental health reform aiming to achieve parity for mental and physical health can only be achieved if every institution recognizes the vital role it can play in delivering this objective.

Pledging a comprehensive package of reforms to improve mental health support at every stage of a person’s life, with an emphasis on early intervention for children and young people, she said: ‘I want us to employ the power of government as a force for good to transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society.’

In response to the Prime Minister’s speech, Dr Gary Wannan, BMA Community Care Committee Chair and child and adolescent psychiatrist, said: ‘Those suffering with mental health issues are among the most vulnerable in society. It is important that mental health problems are identified and diagnosed as early as possible and that people have access to the right help and support.’

He went on: ‘Mental health services are in desperate need of investment, and despite the promises of more money there is evidence it is not coming through fully. Many young patients, in particular, have to travel hundreds of miles for treatment, when they would be better treated nearer home; many do not have any access to outpatient talking treatments for common mental illness such as depression or have to wait a year or more; others have tragically taken their own lives before receiving treatment. The NHS has let these patients down.’

Dr Wannan concluded: ‘Until we have the guarantee that extra funding will be provided, there are question marks over whether the measures outlined in this speech will have the necessary impact.’

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, commented on the news: ‘It’s important to see the Prime Minister talking about mental health and shows how far we have come in bringing the experiences of people with mental health problems up the political agenda. 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.’