In every community across our country, from the largest inner-city tower block to a leafy suburb to a small and quiet rural village, people continue to suffer from a longstanding health injustice. For too long those with mental health conditions have faced the additional challenge of accessing health care and support in a society that avoided discussing the issue. At the same time resources were concentrated on improving physical health, not just in our health service but across society. As Theresa May recently said, “…we are not looking after our health if we are not looking after our mental health.”
That’s why last month, as we marked World Mental Health Day, the Government announced a raft of new measures aimed at reversing this injustice. Around 4,500 people take their own lives each year in England and suicide remains the leading cause of death for men under 45. We all know the amazing work The Samaritans’ do to help people at a time of extreme crisis and their helpline will receive £1.8 million of new government funding. This will help ensure the charity can continue to provide immediate and lifesaving support to everyone who needs it, 24 hours a day.
And in a bold step, the Prime Minister also announced that health minister Jackie Doyle-Price will become the UK’s first Minister for Suicide Prevention. Her task will be to lead government efforts to cut the number of suicides and overcome the stigma that stops people seeking help. She will also ensure every local area has an effective suicide prevention plan in place and look at how the latest technology can be used to identify those most at risk.
Half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14. That’s a sobering statistic. Further measures are being introduced focused on children and young people’s mental health. Recruitment has now begun for new mental health support teams who will work with schools to ensure young people with mental health issues get the help they need.
Failing to tackle mental health issues can lead to tragic, devastating and long-lasting effects on families and communities. Making it a national priority will change perceptions, provide new support and save lives.