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PM pledges to transform mental health support

The Prime Minister, Theresa May has announced a package of measures aimed at transforming mental health support that spreads the burden of responsibility across all institutions – schools, workplaces and communities – providing support across society, not just in hospital, and at every stage of a person’s life.

Mrs May says that for too long mental health has not been treated with the importance it deserves and that to achieve parity between mental and physical health every institution needs to recognise it can play an important role.

The package of measures includes mental health first aid training for all secondary schools; closer links between schools and NHS mental health staff; new partnership with employers to improve mental health support in the workplace; alternatives to hospital treatment to support people in the community; expanding digital mental health services; and a review of the mental health debt form.

Mental health training for teachers and staff will be rolled out to a third of secondary schools this year (around 1,200) and the remaining will be offered training in the following two years.
The government will also support NHS England’s commitment to eliminate inappropriate placements to inpatient beds for children and young people by 2021 – this practice currently sees hundreds of children being sent halfway across the country to access mental health services.

Lord Dennis Stevenson, long-time campaigner for greater understanding and treatment of mental illness, and Paul Farmer CBE, CEO of mental health charity, Mind and Chair of the NHS Mental Health Taskforce 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.

Paul Farmer says: “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.”

The workers Union, GMB, welcomes the move to put the nation’s mental health in the spotlight, but says the Prime Minister has failed to address the real issues, reporting that since the Conservatives came into power in 2010, 12% of mental health staff have left1, almost 5,000 beds have been cut2 and the number of mental health nurses who say they are unable to give adequate care has doubled3.

Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary, says: “It is totally unrealistic and unfair to expect teachers and support staff to pick up the strain by running sessions in schools. The Prime Minister must also address some of the economic causes of increased mental ill health, including the increasingly stressful and insecure nature of work which adds to the pressure on individuals and their families/”

1 According to the NHS Workforce Statistics: September 2016 publication, released on 20 December 2016, there were 35,488 mental health nurses employed by the NHS in England in September compared to 40,630 mental health nurses in May 2010

2 NHS England Beds Time-series 2010/11 onwards

3 NHS Staff Survey, 2010 and 2015 editions