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Steve Clapperton

Campaigns Manager

Charities Aid Foundation


POLITICIANS MUST PUT CHARITIES AT THE HEART OF MENTAL HEALTH STRATEGIES

8 May 2017

With the local and mayoral elections quickly in the rear-view mirror, campaigning for the general election on June 8th is now starting to ramp up a notch. Given that the next few weeks will feature claim and counter-claim galore, it’s pleasing to see that a political consensus has emerged over the need to tackle the UK’s looming mental health crisis.

Research carried out by the Mental Health Foundation – and released today – finds that two-thirds of British adults have experienced mental ill health at some point, significantly above the global average. This, the study finds, is a problem that is particularly apparent amongst young people.

Over the weekend, mental health was at the heart of the pre-election debate. The Conservative Party announced proposals to scrap the Mental Health Act and replace it with new laws, whilst the Liberal Democrats said that their planned rise in income tax would lead to increased funding to use on mental health.

It’s worth noting just how much work has taken place to end the stigma around talking about mental health. As with many other issues, charities have taken the lead in speaking up for those who otherwise would be marginalised, and ensuring that the political debate reflects their needs. Many speak warily about the engagement of charities in politics, but this is an example of the transformative effect that it can have.

In addition, leading public figures have done their bit to get people talking about public health. Recent weeks have seen a focus on the Heads Together campaign, which brings together a number of charities to start conversations about mental health, driven by Prince William, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge. Politicians have done their bit too. In 2012, MPs Charles Walker and Kevan Jones spoke about their own mental health problems in the House of Commons chamber, described by charities at the time as “historic speeches.”

Getting mental health so firmly imprinted onto the nation’s conscience and as a key part of the political debate is an important step, given how many people are affected by it. We want to see charities given the opportunity to work with government to draw up the solution for how to address the growing mental health epidemic facing the nation to ensure that people can access the support that they need.

CAF’s research has found that over 14 million people a year already receive mental health support from charities in the UK. This experience means that charities have so much experience and expertise to offer – giving them a platform to share this unique perspective and influence the bigger-picture debate will help ensure that the UK has a mental health strategy that reflects the needs and concerns of those who will be most affected by it.

CAF is calling for government and all political parties to work hand-in-hand with charities and put them at the heart of mental health policymaking. Charities have so much to offer in this vital area, and their contribution must be embraced and maximised. Focusing on mental health during the election campaign is a great start – charities can help ensure that this vitally important area receives the attention that it deserves all year round.

Want to let us know what you think about mental health policy? Get in touch with us at campaigns@cafonline.org, or on twitter @cafonline.

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