We need a new kind of Mental Health awareness
Over the last 10 years the public awareness of mental health issues has increased dramatically. Unfortunately, improved government policy and better funding into services has not come so readily. This Mental Health Awareness week, I ask fellow Labour Party members to not just increase awareness of mental health problems, but also the gross failures of consecutive Conservative governments to address this country’s mental health crisis.
As a brief insight into my own personal story, during the last year of secondary school, due to experiencing some quite difficult family circumstances, I developed an eating disorder as a mechanism of coping, alongside ploughing myself into my academic work. The later worked I was first person in my comprehensive state school to achieve 5A* at A-Level, I got into Oxford to study Chemistry, and everything seemed to be going well.
The problem is the longer a person lives with an Eating Disorder, the worse it becomes. I had been referred to local NHS Eating Disorder services, but due to the pressures they were under, all that could be offered was a place on an urgent waiting list and physical monitoring, until treatment became available. Unfortunately, my condition was rapidly deteriorating and, due to lack of resources, all services could do was watch as Rome burnt. As a result, despite finishing first place in my academic year, I almost lost my life. I have now recovered from the eating disorder but now campaign for change for others who do not have that voice.
If I had been a rich private school student, rather than a state school student from a single parent family, I could have paid for treatment and would have never ended up in the state I was in. The lack of mental health services in this country is something as a party we should stand up for as it covers every section of society the Labour Party fights for.
This week a series of events have shown that this Conservative government has no real intension of addressing this countries mental health crisis, beyond Boris Johnson saying in a press conference that mental health services are available for all who needs them. I will add that is if you have 2 or more years to wait!
I will use eating disorders as an example as it the field I am most familiar with. First, a report was released this week commissioned by the APPG on Eating Disorders that showed that only 1.1 million out of 11 million of additional funding for Children and Young people’s eating disorder services allocated by government was spent on services. This is a shocking statistic.
Secondly, the Queen’s speech this week showed once again that the Conservative government does not follow evidence when making public health policy decisions. Despite warnings against doing it from experts in the field of eating disorders, and limited evidence on it impact on obesity, the government are ploughing on with the introduction of calorie counts onto menu.
In nursing, (something I know a little about as my mum has been a nurse for 25+ years), a common idea from the times of Florence Nightingale is “First do no harm”. It is a shame that policy makers can’t do the same regarding eating disorders.
Putting calorie counts on menus is not going to solve this countries obesity problem. Let’s address the real factors that lead to individuals being more likely to be obese. One such factor is socio-deprivation. If I can barely afford to feed my family, I’m going to go for what’s cheapest, regardless of nutritional value! Let’s ensure every family in this country can afford and know how to cook healthy food instead.