On Monday David Lammy MP and others from the Labour Party assembled for the launch of the Labour Mental Health Campaign, where Lammy spoke about tackling mental illness in London.
In an article written by Young Labour LGBT Officer Jack Falkingham and Victoria Desmond, London Young Labour Disabled Members Officer, the Labour members criticised the fact that “for too long mental health hasn’t been a serious point on the agenda of politics, never mind a priority.” They continued to say that this week’s launch of the Labour Campaign for Mental Health is an attempt “to start the conversation,” which they hope will lead to “the much-needed reforms of mental health services, the early intervention, the stigma tackling, and a society that identifies and tackles one of its gravest concerns.”
Speaking specifically from the perspective of Young Labour Officers, Falkingham and Desmond pointed out that, “There is so much that can be done early on to help prevent a future of poor mental health. Simple ideas such as mental health being included in the training of teachers and social workers, or giving young people a strong voice over their services, can have a hugely positive impact.”
Labour MP Chuka Umunna has also publicly lent his support to tackling the stigmatisation of, and inadequate services available to, those suffering from mental illness. Umunna spoke at an event held in Lambeth, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, which specifically addressed mental health in British BME communities.
The Liberal Democrats have said that they “are committed to stamping out the stigma around mental health” and “want to see mental health care put on equal footing with physical health” but as a Liberal Democrat government in the coming years is looking increasingly unlikely, perhaps Labour is the best bet for improvement to mental health education and services.
Whilst Nick Clegg has announced that he is determined to help overhaul the current mental health system, which forces many mentally ill people to have to wait inexcusable lengths of time for treatment, not all in the Labour Party trust him to deal with the matter.
Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, has argued that: “You cannot trust a word Nick Clegg says. He’s broken his promises and been too weak to stand up to the Tories.” Burnham continued, “Nick Clegg is part of a Government that has allowed mental health services to fall into crisis. […] For over four years, Nick Clegg has let mental health services slip backwards. Waiting times for talking therapies have got longer and people are struggling to get the support they need.”
“Only Labour’s vision for a national health and care service has mental health at its heart, not relegated to the fringes,” said Burnham.
In October the mental health charity Mind published a report which revealed that, on average, just 1.4% of public health budgets is spent on mental health. Mind chief executive Paul Farmer said, "Mind's findings show that while local authorities are happy to spend on preventing physical health problems, their equivalent spending on mental health is unacceptably low.”
In response to the Mind report Luciana Berger MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Public Health, said: “The Government is failing to honour its promise of treating mental health with the same importance and attention as physical health.” She added, “David Cameron must urgently tackle the crisis in mental health services. Ministers must do more to ensure that services needed by people with mental illness are in place and patients get the help and support that they need.”