Nicky Morgan: Conservatives have put mental health at the front and centre of election campaign
The Conservatives are proposing a new Mental Health Treatment Bill which would support mental health programmes in schools and workplaces, as well as providing 10,000 new mental health professionals in the NHS by 2020, says Nicky Morgan.
In the heat of an election campaign no candidate wants to tempt fate by thinking ahead to what they might do if finally elected. It wasn’t until I’d arrived in Westminster and realised the extraordinary power of MPs to work together to change attitudes as well as the law that I decided mental health would be a topic I would focus on.
I was honoured in 2012 to lead the ground-breaking general debate in the House of Commons on mental health, with Charles Walker, during which a number of MPs shared their own mental health struggles. As Education Secretary I was able to make it clear to the Department for Education that mental health was something we had to support schools in dealing with. I was determined schools should talk to pupils about their wellbeing, we should pilot ways of schools and clinical commissioning groups working together and prioritise counselling. But there was always much, much more to do.
So, I’m delighted that the Conservative Party and Theresa May have made announcements about mental health a key and early part of this General Election campaign. The Prime Minister is clearly very personally committed to tackling remaining mental health challenges and stigma. Her work as Home Secretary in ending detention in police cells for those suffering from a mental health crisis and encouraging police and mental health nurses to work together were significant steps.
This week’s pledges, appropriately announced during Mental Health Awareness Week, show a real determination to be more than reactive but to unpick the now rather outdated law surrounding detention of those who are suffering from poor mental health as well as a focus on prevention by investing in mental health care for young people.
The Prime Minister has said that we will replace the outdated 1983 Mental Health Act with a Mental Health Treatment Bill, to confront the discrimination and unnecessary detention that takes place too often. We will roll out mental health support to every school in the country, ensure that mental health is taken far more seriously in the workplace, and we will raise standards of care with 10,000 more mental health professionals working in the NHS by 2020.
As a trustee and founder of a small mental health support group in my constituency I particularly welcome the guarantee of funding for helplines, places of safety and crisis cafes. This means that funding for helplines, such as the Samaritans will be guaranteed and the £15 million of funding announced by the Prime Minister for community places of safety and crisis cafes will be maintained. We will end the practice where indebted patients are charged up to £150 by their GP for a mental health and debt form to prove their mental ill-health to their creditors.
So far the Conservatives in Government have invested more in mental health than ever by spending an estimated £11.7 billion a year on mental health. And we have introduced the first ever waiting times for mental health treatment. The first ever access and waiting standards have been introduced for both talking therapies and early intervention in psychosis.
There is still too much stigma surrounding mental health and real parity of esteem hasn’t yet been achieved. But putting mental health front and centre of an election campaign is important and must be welcomed. The next challenge will be to deliver the pledges made.
Nicky Morgan is the Conservative candidate for Loughborough
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.