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Theresa May's promise to Mental Health

Category: Industry News, Mental Health, Wellbeing, companies, teacher, announcement, prime minister, concern, teenager

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Theresa May is pledging to help schools and companies in England deal with the "hidden injustice" of mental health problems.

The prime minister will announce extra training for teachers, more online self-checking for those with concerns and a review of services for children and teenagers.

Mental health experts said more funding was needed to improve services.

Mrs May's speech comes as she outlines her plans to use the state to create a "shared society".

She will promise to "transform" attitudes to mental health problems.

The government says that, at any time, one in four people has a mental disorder, with an annual cost of £105bn, and that young people are affected disproportionately.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the focus of the new measures was on children and young people - an area of care he said was a "black spot" - as the pressures of social media, cyber bullying and a big increase in self-harming was a "massive worry for parents".

In the speech, to the Charity Commission, Mrs May will announce several measures:

  • Every secondary school to be offered mental health first aid training
  • Trials on strengthening links between schools and NHS specialist staff, including a review of children and adolescent services across the country, led by the Care Quality Commission
  • Appointing mental health campaigner Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer, chief executive of the charity Mind, to carry out a review on improving support in the workplace
  • Employers and organisations will be given additional training in supporting staff who need to take time off
  • More focus on community care, with an extra £15m towards this, and less emphasis on patients visiting GPs and A&E
  • Expanding online services to allow symptom checks before getting a face-to-face appointment
  • A review of the "health debt form", under which patients are charged up to £300 by a GP for documentation to prove they have mental health issues

Mrs May will say in her speech that mental health has been "dangerously disregarded" as secondary to physical health and changing that will go "right to the heart of our humanity".

Mind chief executive Mr Farmer said it was "important to see the prime minister talking about mental health".

But he said the proof would be in the difference it made to the day-to-day experience of people experiencing mental health problems.

And he called for "sustained leadership" to make sure services and support improved.

Analysis: Raising the profile of mental health

By Hugh Pym, BBC health editor

Mental health campaigners certainly recognise the significance of the latest initiative headed by the Prime Minister.

Theresa May's focus on mental illness in her first major speech on health will in itself raise the profile of the issue and reaffirm the drive to achieve true "parity of esteem" with physical health.

Promoting mental health first aid training in schools in England illustrates the Prime Minister's desire to see this as more than an NHS-only issue.

But there is no new Treasury money for the plans. Funding for care is still challenging. NHS Providers, representing mental health and other trusts, predicts that the share of local NHS budgets devoted to mental health will fall next year.

Ministers will argue that money isn't everything but it remains an unresolved part of the mental health agenda.

Dr Sangeeta Mahajan, whose 20-year-old son Sargaar killed himself after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, wants more awareness to be raised around mental health conditions and better access for patients.

"They don't discharge patients with adequate information," she said. "The doors were closed to us.

"We were told you either go to A&E or your GP and that is the only way you can come back to us.

"We had no direct access back to the specialist services. That is wrong."

Bed shortages have meant some patients have had to travel hundreds of miles for treatment.

Fiona Hollings, 19, was treated in a specialist eating disorder unit for her anorexia in Glasgow - nearly 400 miles away from her family home in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

Professor Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, welcomed Mrs May's "new and bold vision", especially the focus on children. But his support came with a warning.

"We have a long way to go before mental health services are on an equal footing with those for physical disorders - the principle of parity of esteem," he said.

"We urge the prime minister to continue to work towards hard and not soft parity between mental and physical health."

Businesses have welcomed the initiatives focused on improving the treatment of mental health issues in the workplace.

Simon Walker, director general at the Institute of Directors, said: "Mental health problems touch us all, and employers have a real role to play ensuring the health - physical and mental - of their workforce."

While education leaders backed the ideas that focused on young people, they also had concerns.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the major problem schools faced was a lack of access to local specialist NHS care and said government plans had to be "backed up with the funding needed to better support the provision of mental health services both in and outside school."

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, said cuts in funding were still hitting schools and added: "Rising demand, growing complexity and tight budgets are getting in the way of helping the children who need it most."

Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb, a former health minister, said Mrs May was announcing policies already agreed under the coalition government and called it "a puny response" to "cover up for this government's failure" on delivering.

Barbara Keeley, Labour's shadow minister for mental health, said the government's record on the issue was "one of failure".

She added: "We are yet to see their rhetoric become reality.

"The government has failed to provide sufficient funding for mental health services, and people are being let down as a result."

Mr Hunt said the government had endured a "slightly patchy start" with funding, but claimed that with around £1bn more being spent on mental health than two years ago, "things are going in the right direction".

The speech follows Mrs May's announcement at the weekend that she wishes to create a "shared society", with the state taking a greater role in ending "unfairness".

She called the approach to mental health "a historic opportunity to right a wrong" and a chance for people' to change their view.

Mrs May's emphasis on a "shared society" marks a contrast with her predecessor David Cameron's "Big Society" agenda, which relied on voluntary organisations rather than state intervention.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email info@vercida.com for more information.

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