Over the weekend the Prime Minister, Theresa May, pledged that she would challenge the stigma that is often associated with Mental Health problems. The Prime Minister has been commended for broaching the subject and yes, it is incredibly important that Mental Health issues are discussed regularly so that they become part of the natural political discourse.
However, it is hard not to believe that talking about Mental Health is merely the “in vogue” thing to do for politicians, leaving it is at risk of becoming a political tool – like the NHS and Universities before it. It is especially hard to believe that a Conservative Government truly believes in the cause, given their recent history.
Looking back at the Premiership of David Cameron we can see that he too grandly pledged to “end the stigma” linked to Mental Health, to create a more open and mature approach to the subject. In context, Mr Cameron was actually responding to a signed letter from Mental Health professionals and supporters outlining the lack of support for Mental Health services available. The situation for the 1 in 4 people who suffer from a Mental Health problem had worsened under the Conservative Government with Mr Cameron at the helm. George Osborne’s austere Britain exacerbated the already stretched services available in the UK, with budget cuts to services across the board including a notable cut of £35 million to children’s Mental Health services.
Yet whilst it may have been a very public letter which forced his hand, Mr Cameron did pledge a £1 billion investment to Mental Health services and actually followed through on the promise. Even if a good deal of the money filled in holes he had dug himself.
What about now? We can certainly say that Mrs May’s public declaration of support echoed that of her predecessor but unfortunately her purse strings seem to be far tighter with only £15 million promised for all Mental Health services – equating to a mere £23,000 per Parliamentary Constituency. This is a number which will do little to fill the £105 billion bill run up by Mental Health services per annum. Mrs May’s £15 million will largely go towards online help and rather ironically, children’s services, which, Jeremy Hunt audaciously pointed out is a bit of a “blind spot”.
So perhaps it is easier to focus on how thankful we are that Mrs May brought up Mental Health issues at all. It looks as if that’s all we’re going to get at the moment – save for a pithy slogan in a few weeks time when the Prime Minister is put on the spot, when we may even hear the words “Ending Mental Health stigma means ending Mental Health stigma”.