Cautious welcome to PM’s mental health promises

Theresa May
Theresa May
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Politicians and activists have given a cautious welcome to the Prime Minister’s speech calling for mental health services to be transformed.

PM Theresa May used her Charity Commission lecture to call for comprehensive reforms to improve mental health support, with intervention particularly targeted at young people.

Mrs May described mental health as having been “a hidden injustice in our country, shrouded in a completely unacceptable stigma” for too long but gave few concrete policy details.

Conservative activists in the borough have offered particular support to proposals for extra training to be given to secondary school staff to spot mental health issues early and links between schools, the NHS and children’s services will be strengthened.

Senior local Labour politicians said the PM’s interest in mental health was welcome but queried whether the moves would make up for Government cuts to services in recent years.

Wigan Borough Conservatives Federation chairman Richard Short said: “As someone who went to school in Leigh I’m especially pleased to see this help be offered to schools in our constituency.

“These new proposals will ensure children and young people in the borough receive the compassion, care and the treatment they deserve. Mental healthcare will be improved in schools, workplaces and universities and those suffering from mental illness will be able to access the right care for their needs, while we tackle the injustices people with mental health problems face.

“This is an opportunity to make sure we are providing attention and treatment for those deserving of compassion and help, striving to improve mental wellbeing and ensure that everyone is supported.”

Mr Short highlighted problems with young people self harming as a way in which mental health education needed improving, suggesting children often gave themselves physical injuries because their psychological problems were not being recognised.

Members of the borough’s ruling Labour cabinet also said self harm was one of the issues requiring action but suggested Mrs May’s speech was insufficient due to services being overstretched.

Coun Keith Cunliffe, portfolio holder for adult and social care, said: “I welcome the Prime Minister expressing an interest in doing something about mental health issues but I don’t think she has gone far enough.

“Over the last Government spending on mental health fell by £600m and there are thousands fewer nurses. When you look at the money taken out of the system what is being put in is really a fairly puny attempt to resolve the major problems they have created.

“One of the things we’ve done in Wigan is work with schools around prevention and early intervention as part of our transformation of services.

“When I was working as a mental health nurse a lot of mental health problems started in childhood and if we had intervened earlier we could have prevented long periods of illness in adulthood. We talk about young people self harming but we need to be providing services much earlier before that starts.”

In her speech the PM also spoke about measures to tackle mental health problems in the workplace, provide alternatives to GPs and hospitals to support sufferers, expand digital services and solve injustices faced by those with mental health issues.