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On World Mental Health Day, We Must Commit To Fair Funding For Mental Health Care

10/10/2017 07:49
Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive

Mental health has moved centre stage. We don't have to hide. We don't have to pretend that everything is 'fine,' when really we are struggling. That is something to celebrate in our country on World Mental Health Day.

Mental health is on the TV. On the radio. In the tabloids, in the broadsheets, in the magazines. Online. Mental health is on everyone's lips; Prime Ministers and future kings. Mental health is what everyone seems to be talking about.

It's time to talk. It's good to talk. That really is something to celebrate.

We are all talking about mental health - and yet ... and yet the talk is increasingly of crisis.

That is why I have been joined by 160 of my MP colleagues in writing to Prime Minister Theresa May to demand that she ring-fence mental health spending.

The government promised parity, but has delivered a crisis of care, staffing and funding. Most of all, it has overseen a crisis in confidence that help will be there when called for. The crisis is national, and that means it is local too.

As constituency MPs we see the hurt and pain that exists in the gap between government rhetoric and the lack of action on the ground.

We told Mrs May: 'We see this injustice every day in our constituencies. Our constituents face long waits to access mental health services, if they get a referral at all. The number of young people and adults turning up at A&E in a crisis continues to rise. The amount and quality of contact provided in the community has diminished significantly. And too often inpatient treatment means leaving family and friends for a unit hundreds of miles from home.'

Through a series of Freedom of Information requests I uncovered that, for the fourth year in a row, the government has failed to deliver on its promise to increase the money reaching frontline services. For the second year in a row, over half of CCGs say that they plan to reduce the proportion of the budget they spend on mental health.

That is on top of a national funding formula that acts against areas in greatest need.

I know the impact these budgetary decisions are having locally because my constituents share their experiences. I know the impact they are having nationally because, as President of the Labour Campaign for Mental Health, colleagues and campaigners from across the country tell me.

That is why so many have signed the letter to the Prime Minister demanding that she ring-fence mental health.

On World Mental Health Day 2017, we need to commit to campaign harder than ever before for fair funding for mental health.

We must, of course, continue to talk about mental health because although the stigma and discrimination has been reduced, it has not gone away.

It's good to talk. Talking is necessary, but it is not sufficient.

We must ring-fence mental health spending to close the gap between the rhetoric of parity and the reality of cuts on the front-line.

We must keep talking. But if we want to see real equality for mental health now is the time for action.

Luciana Berger is the Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree and president of the Labour Campaign for Mental Health

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