Who will be the best for alleviating the country's mental health issues?
In the run up to the General Election, expect each of the parties bidding for power over the UK to make many promises on a variety of aspects that will affect the future of the next five years – at least – of our lives. You’ve probably already considered your position on topics like the future of the NHS, education and immigration, but what about mental health?
Reports earlier this year revealed the number of people seeking help for mental health issues had risen from 500,000 a year to 1.7 million since 2010, so, even if it’s not an issue that affects you as an individual, chances are it will affect someone you know. Cuts to mental health services and budgets have led experts to declare Britain under a mental health crisis and charity Rethink Mental Illness have warned these cuts are costing people their lives.
But what do the politicians vying for your vote say they’re going to do to help alleviate this problem? Take a look at the promises they’ve made so far.
Promise: So far, the Labour party has promised to improve the mental health of the UK’s children as part of their proposition to make Britain’s children the healthiest in the world.
- A new Index of Child Health to measure progress against international standards in four sectors, one of which is mental health.
- Extra funding for child and adolescent mental health services and support for counselling in every school.
What have they already done?: Conducted research via the Health and Care Policy Commission into early intervention and prevention of mental health, and how to achieve equality between physical and mental health.
Promise: Theresa May has promised a new Mental Health Treatment Bill with an aim to produce a “sweeping reform” of mental health legislation in the UK.
- 10,000 more staff employed at the NHS’ mental health services by 2020
- Sufferers of conditions that may not be a continual issue, such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, given the same protection as those who have suffered from them for more than 12 months.
- Mental health support in schools across the country.
- School programmes teaching children about staying safe online and cyber-bullying.
- Funding the Samaritans helpline until 2022.
- No more charges for people in debt when proving they suffer from mental health issues to creditors.
- Fewer people detained in police cells instead of mental health wards.
What have they already done?: David Cameron injected £1bn into mental health services in 2016, but trusts had their budgets cut by 8.25 percent between 2010 and 2015 – an equivalent of £598m a year.
Promise: The Greens have yet to reveal specific plans for mental health, but when kicking off their campaign in April said they would be pushing for “free education, a living wage for all and investment in mental health services”. Party leader Caroline Lucas has also discussed the mental health crisis, blaming the “bleak future” facing the country’s young people.
- Appearing on the Andrew Marr Show in April, Lucas and co-leader Jonathan Bartley suggested a three-day weekend to help with issues of stress and exhaustion, which they say are contributing to the country’s rising mental health problems.
What have they already done?: The party’s manifesto, last amended in 2016, promised ideas such as local mental health champions, who would advocate on behalf of sufferers for issues such as housing provision, employment and education, mental health awareness training and new research into the best ways to deliver mental health services.
Promise: In 2015, the Lib Dems pledged to spend £3.5bn more on mental health care over the next parliament.
- £250m more funding over five years for pregnant women and mothers dealing with depression.
- New waiting time standards for people in crisis or suffering from conditions like bipolar disorder.
- Access to talking therapies for “hundreds of thousands” more anxiety and depression sufferers.
- A 1p income tax rise, specifically ringfenced to fund the NHS and social care, which could alleviate mental health budget cuts.
What have they already done?: Secured more than £1bn in the coalition government’s final budget to help revolutionise services for children and young people, introduced waiting times standards and built a plan to roll out talking therapies across England, benefitting more than 2.5m people.
Promise: Yet to make any specific promises regarding mental health, but their manifesto pledges to “fight for better social care”, part of which involves providing free personal care for those suffering from dementia.
What have they already done?: The party secured £20m in the 2017-18 budget for mental health services in Wales. They also challenged the Welsh Government to improve waiting times, particularly for mental health services for children and adolescents.
Scottish National Party
Promise: A ten-year strategy to improve Scotland’s mental health including 40 different actions.
- More appropriately trained staff in doctor’s surgeries, A&E wards, prisons and police stations.
- A review of Personal and Social Education, counselling and pastoral guidance in Scottish schools.
- £35m investment in the mental health workforce on top of the £150m pledged by the party in 2016.
What have they already done?: Increased investment in mental health services with that number reaching £1bn this year for the first time. Scotland also has the only dedicated Minister For Mental Health in the UK and were the first UK government to set a waiting time target for mental health.
The General Election takes place on June 8, 2017.