11.05.17

What does the General Election mean for Mental Health?

voting

Social Sense are a Youth Engagement Agency who work with schools across the UK, delivering a unique mindfulness and therapeutic life-coaching programme, Mindful Me. We've invited them to write for our blog because we deliver Mental Health First Aid at work and believe more education and training can help everyone to better support friends, family and colleagues with mental health issues. 

So what does the General Election mean for Mental Health?

Ahead of the snap general election, Social Sense are calling on 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, at Social Sense, 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?

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.

Scottish National Party

  • The first country in the UK to have mental health waiting times which have come down despite increased demand.
  • The SNP has committed to improving waiting times for applies to child and adolescent mental health (CAMHS) and adults even further, and has set the target that 90% of patients should be seen within 18 weeks. 
  • Has pledge to spend over £150 million over five years to improve mental health services. 

Liberal Democrats

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

Plaid Cymru

  • Secured £20 million in the 2017-18 budget for mental health services in Wales.
  • Have pledged to improve access to help and support. 

Green Party

  • Pledge Equal Treatment for Physical and Mental Health
  • Maximum 28 day wait to see psychological services.
  • Reverse the current Government’s 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.

UKIP

  • Increase funding for mental health services to improve and speed up access to treatment for both adults and children as part of our £3 billion injection into the NHS.
  • Ensure there is capacity for all pregnant women and mothers of children under the age of 12 months to have access to specialist mental health treatment.
  • Make sure clinicians take a ‘whole person’ approach to physical and mental health, signposting patients diagnosed with debilitating long-term conditions to local mental health services, and ensuring those diagnosed with a mental illness are given support.

Whichever party comes to power, we at Social Sense believe 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 and for improved investment in primary care for common mental health problems. 

Reece Hobson, Relationship Manager, Social Sense.

So what do you think? Could this election be bad for your mental health or is it just hearing about it that is?

Further reading:

General Election policies for tackling the mental health crisis NME blog.

Mental Health Foundation Analysis of Political Manifestos for Wales 2016

Mental Health in the Manifestos Mind 2015

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