More than 200 high-profile public figures have signed an open letter urging the Government to spare mental health spending from the next round of of spending cuts and boost investment.
Graham Norton, Delia Smith and Archbishop of Canterbury are among signatories of the letter that underlines the historic inequality between mental and physical health spending, and highlights a lack of access to treatment, long waiting times and use of police cells.
The letter is also backed by Olympians like Sir Steve Redgrave and Dame Kelly Holmes, and military figures including General Lord Richards and Falklands hero Simon Weston, as well as actors, directors and singers such as Richard Curtis, Danny Boyle, Annie Lennox, Emma Thompson, Michael Morpurgo and Mumford and Sons.
The letter is part of a wider campaign created by Lib Dem former mental health minister Norman Lamb along with former Labour communications chief Alastair Campbell and ex-Conservative Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell, ahead of Chancellor George Osborne's spending review.
All three have dealt their own or family mental health issues. Other political figures to back the campaign include David Cameron's former advisor Steve Hilton and nine former Tory and Labour health secretaries.
Mr Lamb said: “People with mental health problems have always been seen as second class citizens. It's an historic injustice which has to end. The moral and the economic case is overwhelming. It is changing, but so much more needs to be done and we need the investment now.”
Mr Campbell said: “This is an issue whose time has come. The range of people now giving their active backing to a cause that used to be so taboo nobody would talk about indicates that if we can keep up the momentum, a tipping point can come.”
Mr Mitchell said: “This is a campaign which transcends party boundaries. We all know people with mental health problems and it is time they had the same levels of understanding, support and treatment as people with physical health problems. We believe this will lead to long term savings for the economy.”
Mumford and Sons are among 200 high-profile public figures to have signed the letter
- BUSINESS AND EMPLOYMENT– The IOD, TUC, as well as individuals like Sir Tom Hunter, Sir Martin Sorrell, Lord Richard Rogers, Martin Gilbert and Delia Smith.
- FAITH LEADERS, including The Most Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Dr Shuja Shafi of the Muslim Council of Britain.
- CULTURE AND ARTS – among them Richard Curtis, Danny Boyle, Annie Lennox, Mumford and Sons, Jamal Edwards, Jimmy McGovern, Graham Norton, Emma Thompson, Frankie Bridge from the Saturdays, Steve Coogan, Caitlin Moran, Michael Morpurgo, Louis Theroux and Frank Skinner.
- SPORT – including the League Managers’ Association, the Professional Cricketers’ Association, the Professional Footballers’ Association, the Rugby League State of Mind campaign, along with individuals such as Gordon Strachan, Sam Allardyce and Alan Pardew from football, Olympians Sir Steve Redgrave and Dame Kelly Holmes, Kevin Sinfield from rugby league, Henry Paul dual-code rugby player, Marcus Trescothick, Graeme Fowler and Mike Brearley.
- MILITARY – including General Lord Richards, Sir Peter Wall and Falklands hero Simon Weston.
- CIVIL SOCIETY, EDUCATION AND MEDICINE – including former Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson, Classicist Mary Beard, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, and medical royal colleges.
Ruby Wax, another champion of the campaign, said: "I am delighted to be part of this campaign for better mental health care. I think we are reaching a tipping point and this is clear from how readily so many people are joining us to support this campaign."
The letter reads:
We, the undersigned, have joined together to mount a cross-party, cross-society campaign aimed at persuading the Government to help reduce the suffering of those with mental ill health by increasing investment in the provision of mental health services.
As ministers make final decisions on the Spending Review, we urge them to treat mental health equally with physical health. We ask for the same right to timely access to evidence based treatment as is enjoyed by those with physical health problems.
We accept, and urge ministers to accept, that this will require additional investment in mental health services. But we are strongly persuaded that sustained investment in mental health services will lead to significant returns for the Exchequer, by reducing the burden on the NHS through the improved wellbeing of our citizens, by helping people to stay in, or get back into work and by helping young people succeed in education.
We note the many comments from ministers and opinion formers acknowledging the huge cost of mental ill health not just to individuals and their families, including veterans of our armed forces, but to the economy as a whole. Some estimates put this cost as high as £100bn a year, spent on visits to A&E, lost jobs, unemployment benefits, homelessness support, police time, burden on the criminal justice system and prison places.
So the moral and economic argument for a new approach is clear. And so is the human and moral argument. Indeed ministers have accepted that whatever improvements in attitude may have been made in British society, those who experience mental ill health still do not get a fair deal from our health services. In effect, they suffer discrimination in our publicly funded NHS. This must be addressed.
To highlight just TEN of the many concerns we have in this area -
1) People with mental health problems do not enjoy the same access to services and to treatment as those with physical health problems. As many as three in four of children and young people experiencing a mental health problem get no access to treatment at all. And only 15 per cent of people who might benefit from talking therapies are actually getting such treatment.
2) Until this April there were no maximum waiting times for treatment for mental ill health, and we urge the government to use the Spending Review to show how these waiting times will be implemented and extended to cover all ages and all mental health services.
3) The financial incentives in the NHS discriminate against mental health. As a result, whenever resources are under pressure, mental health is the first to lose out.
4) Too many mentally ill people are being shunted around the country in search of a bed – with no accommodation for parents or carers – and in some cases children are being admitted to adult wards due to shortages - a practice which would never be tolerated in physical health.
5) Too few people who lose their jobs are having the mental health impact of unemployment taken into account, and so lack treatment that might help get them back into work.
6) Too many children and adults are still ending up in police cells rather than hospital when going through a mental health crisis.
7) Too many people are inappropriately in prison essentially because they suffer mental ill health or have a learning disability or autism.
8) We remain deeply concerned that people with long-term mental health conditions live on average 20 years less than the general population.
9) It is very troubling that certain ethnic groups, particularly African-Caribbean and African - are under-represented in children’s services and over-represented in adult acute mental health services and locked and secure services. People from these backgrounds face more frequent use of coercion, suffer more use of physical restraint, end up in contact with the police more often than others and have less access to talking therapies.
10) Vital research to gain a better understanding of mental illness and to establish the most effective treatments is compromised by inadequate funding. Whilst mental ill health accounts for around 23% of the overall disease burden, it only receives about 5% of research funding.
We acknowledge that progress in awareness and understanding has been made. But this is not being matched by the levels of investment in an area which affects virtually every family in the country. We urge the government to seize the opportunity to end this historic injustice and commit the investment that will lead to an economically, and socially, stronger Britain.