What does the General Election mean for Mental Health?

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Ahead of the snap general election, we want all political parties to commit to investing in additional and sustained funding for mental health services; both for adults and young people. This should also involve a significant improvement in funding and support for early intervention programmes in schools and colleges.

The incoming Government firstly should pledge to treat mental and physical health the same; as the Conservatives have previously pledged.

The stigma of mental illness is lifting. More people are coming forward to share their experiences and receiving a sympathetic response instead of a negative one. With the help of big campaigns such as Heads Together, promoted by the Royal Family, mental health has finally received the mainstream coverage it deserves, however, there is still a long way to go.

Despite the promise of more funding, cuts to services continue. The crisis in social care provision means over-stretched A&Es are becoming the place for those suffering a mental health crisis to turn to. Funding is the single biggest issue to mental health services with 57% of CCG’s stating that they will be reducing their spending.

We believe there should also be tougher checks on the local Clinical Commissioning Groups, ensuring that they are spending the extra £1.4bn allocated to mental health until 2020 on its intended target. Young Minds revealed in December 2016, that some of the CCG’s have “siphoned off” the additional cash to cover the spending cuts and fund other services in physical health.

What’s more is that, seven in ten children and teenagers with severe mental health problems are being treated in hospitals far from home, with some sent hundreds of miles. This is no doubt due to cuts in the mental health budget however long-term this alone would be detrimental to young people’s emotional wellbeing and is just unacceptable.

If we are going to truly develop a mentally healthy society, we must begin with a renewed focus on prevention and early intervention; equipping our children and young people with the tools to help themselves become emotionally stronger and more resilient; especially as half of adult mental health problems start before the age of 14.

So, with 8 June looming, what are the political parties’ manifestos regarding mental health and in particular, how will that potentially affect our children?

Conservatives:

  • All primary and secondary schools in England will be provided with mental health first aid training for staff.
  • Plans to scrap the 1983 Mental Health Act in a bid to reduce the number of detentions.
  • Hire 10,000 extra NHS staff by 2020.

Labour:

  • Additional funding for child and adolescent mental health services.
  • A commitment to counselling provision in every school would form part of drive to improve child health.

Liberal Democrats:

  • An extra penny on income tax at all levels to deal with chronic underfunding the NHS.

Green Party:

  • Pledge Equal Treatment for Physical and Mental Health
  • Maximum 28 day wait to see psychological services.
  • Reverse the Tory government’s failed policies to tackle the factors that contribute to poor mental health, like housing shortages, rising poverty, and cuts to public services.
  • Introducing new ‘awareness and empathy education’ in schools to prevent bullying.

Whichever party comes to power, there needs to be a commitment to move funds upstream and to “invest” rather than “spend” on early intervention and prevention services and programmes, and that begins with children and young people.

By Reece Hobson.

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