Mental Health - Ending the Silence

31/07/2014 20:20 | Updated 30 September 2014

One of the things I am most proud of our party for in government, is the emphasis we are putting on mental health. I want to pay tribute to Paul Burstow and Norman Lamb for their work on this and I also want to thank Lib Dem party members like Lee Dargue who have put in hours and hours, campaigning on this issue.

Mental health services are absolutely vital but tragically find themselves swept under the carpet all too often. This silence must end. It costs lives, divides our society and harms our young people. We must have the courage to open our eyes to the truth about mental health and act.

But I write this piece as a local MP, not as president of the Liberal Democrats. At my surgeries on a Friday or Saturday morning, I meet lots of constituents who talk to me about a variety of different problems. Those that stick with me are young people with mental health issues who have no idea where else to turn or how to get the support that they need.

There are then events that have a particularly profound and lasting effect on me - the deaths of young people who have struggled with mental health conditions. These tragic events and the circumstances surrounding them have brought to light serious flaws in the way in which we support our young people and the need for a fresh look at our local services. Improvements have to be made.

So I pulled together a team of experts and asked them to write an independent report. The subsequent report, 'Born in South Lakeland - developing emotionally resilient children', is the culmination of eight months work. I am immensely grateful to the review group - Glenys Marriott, John Asher and Zoe Butler - who gave up their time to produce this report on a voluntary basis.

They interviewed more than 200 people, ranging from people who use our local mental health services, their friends and family, to the doctors, nurses and support workers who help people in need. This is all documented in our 127 page report, which was launched last Tuesday and can be viewed here.

This launch by no means marks the end. It's just the beginning. What we must do now is pursue the key recommendations detailed in the report - more tier 4 services mental health, central points of contact, help for the third sector, work in schools (especially on cyber and LGBT bullying), as well as a better integration of services - amongst other things.

To return to my foreword in 'Born in South Lakeland - developing emotionally resilient children':

'As a father myself, and as MP for around 15,000 people who are under the age of 18, I am determined that we should have mental health support and services available for all our young people that meet their needs at exactly the moment they need it. If we are to value our young people, mental health must not be a taboo. Let's talk about mental health, and let's commit to do those things that will make our mental health, and our mental health services, the best they can be.'