As Boris Johnson prepares to take on his role as Britain’s Prime Minister later today, leading mental health charity Mind, asks the public to call upon him to deliver on UK mental health priorities
Leading mental health charity Mind is asking the newly appointed Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to continue the progress that has been made in mental health awareness and provision in the past thirty years, and to deliver on the six mental health priorities laid out in the charity’s Time To Deliver briefing. A copy of this briefing was sent to the soon-to-be PM last month before his appointment.
Political change can be unsettling, but we want you to know that we won't stop campaigning for better mental health.— Mind (@MindCharity) July 23, 2019
We're writing to Boris Johnson to demand he prioritises mental health as the #NextPrimeMinister. If you agree, sign our letter > https://t.co/FXsaQCHEQU pic.twitter.com/jODblVLE42
To reinforce this ask, Mind is also calling upon the public to add their signatures to an open letter penned to the new PM which reads;
Dear Prime Minister,
Congratulations on your success in the Conservative Leadership Contest.
Mind wrote to you last month with a copy of our briefing, Time to Deliver, which explained why mental health is one of the biggest issues you’ll need to address as Prime Minister.
Mind's letter and briefing made clear that mental health services are failing in parts of the country, with two-thirds of people with common mental health problems still not receiving any treatment at all. We set out evidence of the growing crisis in young people's mental health, and urged you to bring the Mental Health Act into the 21st century so that people can expect to be treated with dignity and compassion.
We also explained why you’ll need to look beyond the NHS to really improve mental health - addressing issues such as housing, employment protections, and social care to name but a few.
And we made clear that all too often the benefits system, far from supporting people, adds to their distress and anxiety and pushes them further away from work.
We're writing not only as Mind, but as the voices of our campaigners and supporters, including those who have chosen to sign our letter.
Now that you are in post, we are writing to urge you to act quickly, to not only honour the commitments of the Conservative Party manifesto, but also to go further and put mental health at the very heart of your political agenda.
It’s time to deliver on mental health, and we look forward to hearing your plans.
Mind and our undersigned supporters
The Time To Deliver briefing sets out the six priorities for mental health in the UK. These include;
Provide the right care, in the right place, at the right time
Explaining that the NHS Long-Term Plan, published in January 2019, builds on the progress started under the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health and includes a commitment of £2.3 billion a year for mental health by 2023/24. Mind asks that the commitments within the long-term plan are honoured and that the funding promised reaches the frontline of mental health provision.
This funding would mean 24-hour access to crisis care, that two million more people with anxiety, depression and other mental health problems would be able to access talking therapies. There would also be greater support for pregnant women and new mums and improvements to mental health services for children and young people.
In addition to this, there was a guarantee that investment in primary, community and mental healthcare will grow faster than the growing overall NHS budget. This will be a key factor in being able to provide the right care, at the right time and in the right place.
Address the growing crisis in young people’s mental health
Sharing that half of all mental health problems have been established by the age of 14, rising to 75% by the age of 24, Mind asks that Boris Johnson and his government deliver on existing commitments in schools and make progress in terms of prevention. They request that the new PM ensures all children and young people can access timely, appropriate and well managed support for their mental health, wherever they are in the country - by enabling schools, NHS services, local authorities and all relevant agencies to deliver the help that’s needed, when it’s needed.
Promote and protect mental health at work
Referring to the Thriving at Work proposal, penned by Mind’s CEO Paul Farmer and Lord Dennis Stevenson, the charity ask that further progress is made in regards to the key legislative reccomendations made in the paper. This includes the extension and clarification of workplace protections under the Equality Act 2010, so that mental health can be included - as well as an overhaul to statutory sick pay.
Employment and mental health already appears to be on Boris Johnson’s radar, having written about the relationship between the two for a recent piece in The Telegraph.
Make the benefits system work for people with mental health problems
Drawing upon the experiences of individuals who have faced discrimination when looking for work, or claiming benefits because of ill mental health, the charity asks that Boris Johnson ensures that the benefits system works for those who need it. Mind notes; “Everyone with a mental health problem should be able to access financial support from the benefits system when they need it, free from the fear of sanctions, and confident that they will be treated with dignity, compassion and respect.”
Modernise the Mental Health Act
Mind explains; “The Mental Health Act 1983 is the legislation in England and Wales that sets out when people can be detained and treated in hospital for their mental health against their wishes.”
“Being sectioned is one of the most serious things that can happen to somebody experiencing a mental health problem and can have long-term effects for them. For years, Mind and others have argued that the way the Act is implemented, and the care that people receive under it, often fails to treat people with dignity and respect. It focuses on what people are unable to do, rather than empowering people to have choice and control over their own care and recovery.”
The Conservative government recognised that this act was outdated and no longer fit for purpose in 2017, and Theresa May established an independent review, which drew upon the knowledge and experience of patients, carers and professionals.
The findings raised serious questions about racial disparity, with Black African and Caribbean people disproportionately detained under the Act, and deep concerns around human rights and dignity.
The recommendations that followed in the independent review were wholeheartedly backed by Mind. They included minimising the numbers of people being held against their will; strengthening the rights, dignity and wellbeing of people who are extremely vulnerable, ensuring that people are given a voice in crucial decisions about their health, and addressing racial discrimination.
Although the paper was published in early 2019, there has yet to be a formal response from the government and this is of great concern to Mind, who call for Boris Johnson to commit to all of the recommendations in the review and to a new Mental Health Bill in the next Queen’s Speech.
Put mental health at the heart of government policy
Mind concludes; “The Prime Minister should commit to developing a cross-government strategy for mental health, making clear that each government department is responsible for actively promoting good mental health, and for preventing its policies from being detrimental to mental health.
This strategy should bring together existing commitments from across government, and sit alongside the NHS Long-Term Plan. In addition, the Prime Minister must ensure the long-awaited Green Paper on prevention is published, and provide adequate funding via the Spending Review for both.”
With concerns about Boris Johnson’s recent commentary on mental health looming, and the seemingly exclusive focus on Brexit over the next three months, it appears to be more important than ever to have this call for action from a leading mental health charity.
We wait and hope that the Prime Minister will engage with Mind’s call to action and deliver what the nation needs.
You can add your voice to this requests by signing the letter here