Peter suffered from mental ill health for many years. He approached me to help him secure a move from his accommodation, which was having an adverse impact on his mental health. He also felt he was not receiving the access to treatment he needed. As any hardworking MP would do, I and my office immediately spoke to the local health Trust over access to treatment and the relevant local housing bodies to help him with his accommodation needs. Later Peter contacted us when he wanted to be admitted to hospital as he felt suicidal. Again we stepped in to help Peter. Days later we heard the devastating news that Peter had took his own life.
Peter's story isn't unique. This tragic event is one of many with suicide the UK's biggest killer of men under the age of 45 and the rate has increased in recent years.
Since my election as an MP for Leicester South I've been passionate about fighting for a better deal for mental health provision. This has to be about improving the services available to those suffering from mental health issues and their carers. Early on as an MP I quickly realised that if we are to improve services then we absolutely have to listen to those who use those services. That's why four years ago I organised a major summit in Leicester which for the first time brought people together to talk about their experiences of the services provided and what needs to be done to genuinely provide parity.
It was through those discussions that I quickly agreed and pledged to become a 'Local Champion for Mental Health' in Leicester and to raise issues or concerns with the Government, the City Council, the Clinical Commissioning Group and the local Partnership Trust on behalf of the Voluntary and Community Sector in Leicester and those suffering from mental health issues and their carers. Seven further pledges were made at this summit to improve service delivery.
Since that first summit I have organised and hosted further summits, and I am pleased that a Mental Health Summit is now held every year in Leicester bringing together key statutory and voluntary agencies in the City and County.
These summits have no doubt helped to raise the profile of mental health locally but also crucially led to improvements in local services too. However the need for more resources is sadly still on the agenda. A year ago 'Equality 4 Mental Health' brought together 250 leaders from business, trade unions, the arts, music, sport, education, health and politics to demand equality for those who suffer from mental ill health, particularly in terms of timely access to good, effective treatment. I was one of the more 20,000 plus who signed up in support of this demand
Despite the warm words of the then Prime Minister David Cameron and the announcement of extra funds for mental health by the then Chancellor George Osborne, as stated by Equality 4 Mental Health "one year on, we see the same enduring injustice, the massive economic cost of neglect of mental ill health - estimated to be £105bn a year - and the distress suffered by countless families across the country because of failures of the system adequately to support people in need."
As a 'Local Champion for Mental Health' my office holds regular advice sessions at a local Resource Centre run by a mental health charity. This excellent voluntary organisation (which because of government cuts is facing imminent closure) assists more men than women, reduces social isolation for men and decreases the numbers that have to be admitted to hospital or call on statutory services. Yet despite voluntary initiatives such as this we are all too aware the overall landscape for mental health services remains challenging. Despite promised increases in funding, mental health trusts in England are still suffering cuts to their budgets. According to analysis by the King's Fund two in every five trusts saw their budgets cut in 2015-16.
But the story does not end with resources. We also need effective joint commissioning of services between Health and Social Care and a delivery of service that is accessible to all those who require assistance, regardless of gender, socio economic and ethnic background.
Representing one of the most diverse cities in Europe I see every day the inequalities that effect BAME communities. According to the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey in 2014 people who were white British, female, or in mid-life (especially aged 35 to 54) were more likely to receive treatment. What's more not only do men face greater difficulties than women in accessing treatment, people especially men from black and minority ethnic communities have particularly low treatment rates.
The NHS is going through its biggest financial squeeze in its history with spending per head set to fall in 2018. This week Philip Hammond has an opportunity to change that funding trajectory and start giving the NHS the funding it really needs. There is widespread speculation that the Chancellor may find a small amount of extra funding for adult social care. However as welcome as that would be, the real test for his Autumn Statement will be whether it delivers the investment promised to fully fund the NHS. Under the Tories our NHS is underfunded and overstretched. It's time to give the NHS the money it needs including finally ensuring parity of esteem for mental health services.
Jon Ashworth is the MP for Leicester South and shadow Secretary of State for Health
HuffPost UK is running a month-long focus around men to highlight the pressures they face around identity and to raise awareness of the epidemic of suicide. To address some of the issues at hand, Building Modern Men presents a snapshot of life for men, the difficulty in expressing emotion, the challenges of speaking out, as well as kick starting conversations around male body image, LGBT identity, male friendship and mental health.
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