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Open Minds: Parliamentarians Welcome New Research on Addressing the Nation’s Mental Health Crisis


5 min read Partner content

After years of being on the fringes of policy discussions, mental health is increasingly part of the mainstream health debate. Now, a new collection of research from Policy@Manchester has brought together expert analysis to identify the causes of poor mental health and to identify potential solutions.

In England alone, around 1.2 million people are currently on NHS waiting lists for mental health support, while millions more are estimated to be struggling with diagnosable levels of mental ill-health, but getting no support at all.

As policy attention on mental health continues to increase, policymakers are constantly on the lookout for new approaches and ideas that can help tackle the growing national crisis.

A recently released report from The University of Manchester’s policy engagement unit, Policy@Manchester, has set out many of the challenges around mental health and identified a range of potential solutions.

Open Minds is a collection of 10 evidence-based articles from the University’s academics, covering the mental health needs of young people, veterans, prison leavers, and others. It also highlights important new treatments that could transform the policy approach to metal health and wellbeing.

Launched on World Mental Health Day, the Open Minds report shines a light on the causes and challenges of poor mental health, alongside evidence-led recommendations that could help improve the lives of millions.

The new report has already been welcomed by a number of leading parliamentarians. Chair of the APPG on Mental Health, Dean Russell MP, is one of those who sees the evidence-based approach adopted by The University of Manchester researchers as critical in shaping future policy thinking.

“Tackling the stigma around mental health has been a priority in my role as a Member of Parliament,” Russell told PoliticsHome. “Open Minds brings together a wealth of expertise and insight, giving policymakers valuable tools to understand further the challenges of poor mental health. I look forward to reading further publications and receiving briefings on their detailed work supporting mental health.”

Writing in the foreword to the report, Mark Rowland, CEO of the Mental Health Foundation, explains why he believes urgent action is needed if we are to address the nation’s mental health challenges. Rowland draws a sharp distinction between advances in many areas of physical health with a lack of progress on mental health issues.

“We have made huge progress in improving physical health in this century and the last one,” he writes. “But mental health is going in the wrong direction.”

Tracey Crouch MP is a long-standing campaigner for better support for people experiencing mental health issues. Like Dean Russell MP, Crouch has also welcomed the new report as an important contribution to shaping effective policies that will deliver better outcomes.

“All the data, information, and research gathered on mental health, such as the work by Open Minds, is essential material for politicians shaping policy and guidance,” she tells PoliticsHome. “Evidence-based policy making delivers more efficient and effective outcomes for millions of people and will help combat poor mental health in the long term”.

Labour MP Liz Twist shares Crouch’s view that the new Policy@Manchester report is a valuable resource for parliamentarians and campaigners seeking to address the challenge of mental health.

“As parliamentarians, the more we know, the more we can change,” she told PoliticsHome. “This report not only outlines causes of rising mental health, but it shares with us practical solutions that we vitally need. I’m grateful for its publication and look forward to discussing its contents more with colleagues to better support so many across our society on issues with their mental health.”

Rowland believes that the research evidence provided in Open Minds can potentially form part of the wider whole systems transformation needed to address the rising number of mental health problems in society.

“That’s why the work of Policy@Manchester is so vital,” Rowland writes. “There are some brilliant ideas in this report. But we need to follow the evidence, rigorously interrogating ideas and adopting them where they can be shown to be useful.”

Jim Shannon MP, who speaks for the Democratic Unionist Party on health, also welcomed the new report in highlighting the impact of mental health on specific groups in society.

“It is vital that we find solutions that are underpinned by robust research evidence, and this is what the Open Minds authors have provided,” Shannon told PoliticsHome. “I am particularly pleased to see the new publication highlighting the need to understand and address the mental health needs of veterans and those currently serving in the UK Armed Forces. This is something I have long campaigned for.”

Alongside veterans, the collection also includes pieces that focus on young people, prison leavers, and the LGBT+ community. Long-time advocate for better treatment for children and young people, Baroness Tyler of Enfield, was particularly pleased to see that issue being addressed by researchers.

“So many of the articles in this important and thought-provoking report underline the need for early action to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people,” she explains. “That’s why I support the calls being made for a national rollout of early support hubs in every local area so that children and young people can access the support they need for their mental health to stop problems escalating.”

Cecilia Wong, Academic Co-Director of Policy@Manchester, is pleased to see the new publication being read and used by those responsible for both policy and practice.

“Open Minds combines leading research expertise on mental health and wellbeing from across the University of Manchester with evidence-led policy analysis,” she says. “I hope it will be read widely and its recommendations taken onboard by those with the power to tackle the mental health crisis.”   

For more information about ‘Open Minds’ and to read the collection of thought leadership pieces from Policy@Manchester, please click here.

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