Theresa May announces new measures to tackle 'hidden injustice' of mental illness

Posted On: 
9th January 2017

Theresa May will use her first major speech of the year to outline a major overhaul of treatment for mental illness. 

Theresa May will make her first major speech of the year this morning
Credit: 
PA Images

The Prime Minister will set out a range of measures focusing on schools, employers and local communities, geared towards helping create what she calls "the shared society".

The Government calculates that one in four Britons experiences a mental health problem at some point, with the cumulative cost amounting to over £100bn a year - roughly the same as the entire NHS budget.

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Mrs May will focus particularly on addressing provision for young people, as three quarters of cases of mental illness begin before the age of 18. 

The proposals include new training for teachers to spot mental health problems among young people, a review on improving support in the workplace and a new online resource for people to check their symptoms. 

'HIDDEN INJUSTICE'

Delivering the annual Charity Commission lecture in central London this morning, Mrs May will say:

“For too long mental illness has been something of a hidden injustice in our country, shrouded in a completely unacceptable stigma and dangerously disregarded as a secondary issue to physical health. Yet left unaddressed, it destroys lives, it separates people from each other and deepens the divisions within our society.

"Changing this goes right to the heart of our humanity; to the heart of the kind of country we are, the values we share, the attitudes we hold and our determination to come together and support each other."

She will argue that an important part of the approach will be about changing societal attitudes to mental illness.

“This is a historic opportunity to right a wrong, and give people deserving of compassion and support the attention and treatment they deserve. And for all of us to change the way we view mental illness so that striving to improve mental wellbeing is seen as just as natural, positive and good as striving to improve our physical wellbeing.”

Under the plans every school in England will get the chance to have mental health first aid training, while there will also be trials on improving links between schools and NHS mental health staff. 

There will be a £67.7m investment in digital support so that those experiencing mental health problems can check their symptoms online and access therapy online without having to wait weeks for an appointment.

Mrs May has also appointed mental health campaigner Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer, the chief executive of Mind, to lead a review of how employers treat staff who are suffering from mental illness. 

Mr Farmer said: “It’s important to see the Prime Minister talking about mental health and shows how far we have come in bringing the experiences of people with mental health problems up the political agenda. Mental health should be at the heart of government, and at the heart of society and communities – it’s been on the periphery for far too long."