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Mental Health Must Become a Key Issue in This Election - I'm Proud to Say the Lib Dems Have Thrown Down the Gauntlet

14/04/2015 20:13 BST | Updated 14/06/2015 10:59 BST

Most of us have heard the statistic time and again - one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem every year. Every one of us is touched by the impact of mental illness. If we are lucky enough to escape the net ourselves, we will have witnessed the devastating effects it can have on our loved ones, family or friends if they don't get the support they need.

As minister for mental health I have heard the stories of thousands of others whose lives have been marked by the experience of mental illness. It has made me determined to act, to change things for others in the future. That's why I am on a mission to improve mental health support for every individual and every family. It's why I have fought to prioritise mental health in this government, and it's why the Lib Dems have put mental health front and centre of our manifesto.

We desperately need to end discrimination against mental illness - in the NHS, and across society - and I'm proud the Lib Dems have consistently led the way on this. In this government we have made significant progress. Thanks to my Lib Dem predecessor, Paul Burstow, the principle of treating mental and physical equally is enshrined in law. We provided the first government funding for the anti-stigma campaign Time to Change, which has now received cross-party support, and have allocated hundreds of millions of pounds to increasing access to talking therapies - including the first dedicated programme for children and young people. Thanks to the Lib Dems, over two and a half million people with depression or anxiety have had treatment with talking therapies.

We are righting the injustice that Labour created when they brought in waiting time standards for physical conditions, but left out mental health. We've supported local areas to put in place much better support for people in mental health crisis, increased mental health diversion schemes, and are ending the use of police cells as a 'place of safety' for children in young people in mental health crisis. Nick Clegg has also established and chaired a cross-governmental Mental Health Taskforce to join up the dots and make it clear that mental health issues impact far beyond the NHS. This meant we were able to push much further in last month's budget and secured over a billion pounds to support better mental health services for children and young people, for new mothers, and for the unemployed.

These reforms really matter and will change lives. But despite all these achievements - and more - the truth is that we are still at the foothills of the journey towards equality for mental health.

That's why the Lib Dems have committed to investing a minimum £3.5billion extra in mental health services in England over the next parliament, along with the cash for similar investments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. At the end of last month, we published our Manifesto for the Mind, setting out what we plan to do with that money.

We will build on the work we have already done on waiting time standards to expand the range of conditions covered. This will mean that both children and adults get access to the help they need quicker, and will know how long they have to wait for treatment - just as people with physical health conditions do.

We will invest £250million over five years in transforming care for pregnant women, new mothers and those who have experienced the heartbreak of miscarriage. We will revolutionise children's mental health services so that the three children in every classroom suffering from mental health problems can access help and support. That means services that are much better tailored to the young people who use them - services that get rid of the stigma and confusion surrounding mental illness and are much more accessible - whether in the town centre or online. It also means making sure mental health is on the curriculum and teachers know what to do and where to go for help.

We will significantly expand and improve mental health support for job seekers and continue to encourage business to play their part in safeguarding the mental health of their employees. And we will publish a national wellbeing strategy which puts better health and wellbeing for all at the heart of government. This means not just improving mental health support, but taking prevention of mental illness seriously. So we will launch a public health campaign promoting the steps people can take to improve and protect their own mental health - the wellbeing equivalent of the "Five a Day" campaign for healthy eating.

With mental illness costing our economy over £100billion pounds a year and millions of lives put on hold because there isn't the right support, we desperately need to accelerate the pace of change. That's why mental health must become a key issue in this election campaign, and I'm proud to be able to say that the Lib Dems have thrown down the gauntlet. To keep on delivering a stronger economy and a fairer society, mental health has to take centre stage.

Beyond The Ballot is The Huffington Post UK's alternative take on the General Election, taking on the issues too awkward for Westminster. It focuses on the unanswered questions around internet freedom, mental health and housing. Election news, blogs, polls and predictions are combined with in-depth coverage of our three issues including roundtable debates, MP interviews and analysis

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