Mental health - we need funding for services and social change

Posted by Natalie Bennett on 14th May 2017

Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week. That was only one week, but it is something we need to think about every day of the year - at least until we've made big improvements in the wellbeing of our society and the services available to those who need help.

 

Last week the Green Party’s co-leader Jonathan Bartley unveiled a pledge to match spending on mental health services to that spent on physical health, and to ensure that those who need psychotherapy receive treatment within 28 days.

It’s a pledge this country badly needs: right now, just 0.7% of the health budget is spent on mental health - and that percentage has fallen over the past three years despite the steeply rising need for these services.

Here in Sheffield, the devastating impact of cuts is already being felt. The Mental Health Action Group Sheffield, who support around 250 people suffering from mental health problems, are seriously worried about their future.

Services are struggling to keep up with the numbers of people seeking help for mental health conditions: in the past year, the number of calls to the the advice service Nightline has risen 46%, while the number of students seeking counselling from the university health services has risen significantly over the last five years. It couldn’t be clearer that the increased academic and financial pressures students today face are taking their toll.

So what do we do? First and foremost, we need to make sure our mental health services are properly funded. To expect these services to help more people with less money is nothing short of perverse - and yet that’s what is happening under this government. Greens will reverse this trend, and make sure our services get the money they need.

We also need to recognise that our mental health doesn’t exist in isolation: it’s affected by poor quality housing, financial worries, academic pressure and a myriad other environmental factors. Turning schools into exam factories is even affecting the mental health of primary school children. The Green Party is pledging to introduce awareness and empathy education in schools to tackle bullying and begin to address child and adolescent mental health problems at their root.

One in four of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives - and yet less than one pound in every hundred spent on the NHS goes towards tackling these issues. This  sorry state of affairs needs to end, and end now. As your MP, I will take the current crisis in mental health seriously, and fight for the services so many of us desperately need.

If you are experiencing mental health problems, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123 for confidential support.