Prime Minister unveils plans to transform mental health support

Theresa May announces a comprehensive package of measures to transform mental health support in our schools, workplaces and communities.

  • PM: “I want us to employ the power of government as a force for good to transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society”
  • comprehensive package of reforms to improve mental health support at every stage of a person’s life – with an emphasis on early intervention for children and young people
  • leading mental health figures to undertake independent expert report on companies’ work to support mental health

Delivering the annual Charity Commission lecture today, Prime Minister Theresa May will announce a comprehensive package of measures to transform mental health support in our schools, workplaces and communities.

The Prime Minister will say that true parity for mental and physical health can only be achieved if every institution recognises the vital role it can play in delivering this objective.

Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to 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.

I want us to employ the power of government as a force for good to transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society, and at every stage of life.

What I am announcing are the first steps in our plan to transform the way we deal with mental illness in this country at every stage of a person’s life: not in our hospitals, but in our classrooms, at work and in our communities.

This starts with ensuring that children and young people get the help and support they need and deserve – because we know that mental illness too often starts in childhood and that when left untreated, can blight lives, and become entrenched.

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.

The plans to tackle the burning injustice of mental illness form part of the government’s wider commitment to wholesale social reform – and its mission to create a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.

The Prime Minister’s speech this morning follows her words on the steps of Downing Street, where she vowed to create a country where if you struggle to get by, the government will do what it can to help; and a government which stands up to vested interests and tackles the everyday injustices that have been ignored for too long.

The speech will set out her determination to build a shared society based on the values of citizenship, responsibility and fairness, backed by a government which takes an active role in helping those who feel they have been ignored for too long.

The plans aim to make mental health an everyday concern for every bit of the system, helping ensure that no one affected by mental ill-health goes unattended. It includes:

  • new support for schools with every secondary school in the country to be offered mental health first aid training and new trials to look at how to strengthen the links between schools and local NHS mental health staff. There will also be a major thematic review of children and adolescent mental health services across the country, led by the Care Quality Commission, to identify what is working and what is not and a new green paper on children and young people’s mental health to set out plans to transform services in schools, universities and for families
  • a new partnership with employers to improve mental health support in the workplace. The Prime Minister has appointed Lord Dennis Stevenson, the long-time campaigner for greater understanding and treatment of mental illness, and Paul Farmer CBE, CEO of Mind and Chair of the NHS Mental Health Taskforce, to drive work with business and the public sector to support mental health in the workplace. These experts will lead a review on how best to ensure employees with mental health problems are enabled to thrive in the workplace and perform at their best. This will involve practical help including promoting best practice and learning from trailblazer employers, as well as offering tools to organisations, whatever size they are, to assist with employee well-being and mental health. It will review recommendations around discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of mental health
  • further alternatives to hospital to support people in the community. Recognising that seeing a GP or going to A&E is not or does not feel like the right intervention for many people with mental ill-health, the government will build on its £15 million investment to provide and promote new models of community – based care such as crisis cafes and community clinics. The initial £15 million investment led to 88 new places of safety being created and the government now plans to spend up to a further £15 million to build on this success
  • plans to rapidly expand treatment by investing in and expanding digital mental health services. Digitally assisted therapy has already proved successful in other countries and the government will speed up the delivery of a £67.7 million digital mental health package so that those worried about stress, anxiety or more serious issues can go online, check their symptoms and if needed, access digital therapy immediately rather than waiting weeks for a face-to-face appointment – with further follow up face-to-face sessions offered as necessary
  • new ways to right the injustices people with mental health problems face. Despite known links between debt and mental health, currently hundreds of mental health patients are charged up to £300 by their GP for a form to prove they have mental health issues. To end this unfair practice the Department for Health will undertake a formal review of the mental health debt form, working with Money and Mental Health. The government will also support NHS England’s commitment to eliminate inappropriate placements to inpatient beds for children and young people by 2021 – a practice which currently sees hundreds of children being sent halfway across the country to access mental health services

One in 4 people has a common mental disorder at any one time and the economic and social cost of mental illness is £105 billion – similar to the entire annual NHS budget.

Figures show mental illness also disproportionately affects young people and those on lower and middle incomes with over half of mental health problems starting by the age of 14 and 75% by 18.

In 2014 mental health conditions affected almost 1 in 5 of all working-age people and around 1 in 7 of people in full-time employment. In the workplace 18 million days were lost to sickness absence caused by mental health conditions in 2015 at a cost of around £9 billion a year to employers.

Today’s announcements build on improvements to mental health support since 2010. The government is currently investing more in mental health than ever before – spending an estimated £11.7 billion a year and has already legislated to give mental and physical health equal priority in law.

The first ever access and waiting standards have also been introduced for both talking therapies and early intervention in psychosis and the government is investing £1.4 billion over the course of this Parliament into mental health support for children and young people.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, the mental health charity, 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.

We welcome the announcements around a focus on prevention in schools and workplaces and support for people in crisis. The proof will be in the difference it makes to the day-to-day experience of the 1 in 4 who will experience a mental health problem this year. Mental health is everyone’s business and we need to see sustained leadership to make sure services and support improve for all of us with mental health problems. Having been neglected for decades, we need to see it made a priority for decades to come to make sure everyone with mental health problems can live the life they want to lead.

In a statement issued today, Sir Ian Cheshire, Chairman of the Heads Together campaign, said:

The Prime Minister’s announcements today are extremely important and very welcome, as they show both a willingness to tackle the broad challenge of mental health support and a practical grasp of how to start making a real difference.

As the chair of Heads Together, an alliance of charity and corporate partners committed to changing the national conversation on mental health, I would urge all involved in the sector to collaborate and build on these initiatives.

Leave a comment