Theresa May appoints minister for suicide to tackle mental health 'injustices'
Theresa May has appointed a new minister for suicide in a bid to tackle “the injustices facing those with mental health conditions”.
The Prime Minister said the new role for England, filled by junior health minister Jackie Doyle-Price, would help reduce the stigma around suicide and increase the parity of esteem between mental and physical health.
She made the announcement as the Government prepares to host the first ever global mental health summit in London, at which more than 50 countries will be represented.
But Labour said mental health services were still being underfunded and highlighted the long waits or rejections for treatment.
Official figures say suicide rates are falling, but some 4,500 people take their lives every year - three quarters of them men.
Mrs May said: “When I first became Prime Minister, I stood on the steps of Downing Street and pledged to fight the burning injustices in our society.
“There are few greater examples than the injustices facing those with mental health conditions. But together we can change that.”
She added: “We can end the stigma that has forced too many to suffer in silence. We can prevent the tragedy of suicide taking too many lives.
“And we can give the mental wellbeing of our children the priority it so profoundly deserves.”
Mrs May also pledged some £1.8m to the Samaritans to support the charity in providing its free helpline for those suffering with mental health issues for the next four years.
But shadow minister for mental health Barbara Keeley said services were “still being underfunded by the Conservative government”.
She said adults in some areas of the country are made to wait up to four months for treatment, while one in four children get rejected for treatment after referral.
And she added: “Labour made a Shadow Minister for Mental Health a Shadow Cabinet level appointment in 2015 and has pledged to increase mental health spending, ringfencing budgets so funding reaches the frontline.”
It comes as a new report by government spending watchdog the NAO attacked current progress and warned that money for child mental health services may not have been spent as intended.
NAO boss Sir Amyas Morse said: “Current targets to improve care are modest and even if met would still mean two thirds of those who need help are not seen.
“Rising estimates of demand may indicate the Government is even further away than it thought.”