01/04/2016 12:30 BST | Updated 02/04/2016 12:19 BST

Government Unable To Answer 'Basic Questions' On Mental Health, Reveals Labour's Luciana Berger

Labour launch #mentalhealthmatters campaign by highlighting Government's knowledge gap

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 Suicide rates, teens on anti-depressants and child deaths in psychiatric care are just some of the data not being collected by the Government, Labour’s Shadow Mental Health Minister has revealed.

Luciana Berger has submitted hundreds of questions to the Government in an attempt to discover how seriously it is taking the challenge of mental health problems in the UK.

Throughout April, Ms Berger will use social media to reveal 30 of the most shocking gaps in the Government’s knowledge surrounding the issue.

In February, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced he was backing calls for people facing mental health crises to have access to round-the-clock community care.

But launching her #mentalhealthmatters campaign today, Ms Berger said: “This is yet further shocking evidence of the gap between what Tory Ministers say about mental health and what they actually do.

“The Prime Minister promised to improve transparency and accountability in mental health, yet his Government is not even collecting basic data.

"It is absolutely appalling that Ministers have no idea how many new mums have taken their own lives because of mental health problems, how many people diagnosed with mental illness go to prison, or how many children have died in NHS mental health units.

"How can ministers claim to be focussing on mental health when they don’t have an accurate picture of what is actually happening on the ground?

“If Ministers couldn’t answer such basic questions on physical health there would be outrage. These findings cast further doubt over the Tory Government’s ability to deliver what they have promised and make mental health the real priority it deserves to be.”

Gareth Fuller/PA Archive

It is estimated that every year one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem.

Research in 2009 revealed that 17 in every 100 people had suicidal thoughts at some point in their life. 

In 2013, there were 6,233 suicides of people aged 15 and over - up by 252 on 2012. The male suicide rate was more than three times higher than the female rate, with 19.0 male deaths per 100,000 compared to 5.1 female deaths.

Earlier this week, former Lib Dem Health Minister Norman Lamb told the Guardian he felt like he was “operating in fog” when trying to work on mental illness provision.

He claimed real-time data on mental health care was not presented in weekly meetings by NHS boss Simon Stevens, unlike information on physical health conditions.

Lamb said: “It distorts the system and distorts where the money goes in an extremely aggressive way.”

Reacting to the Government's lack of knowledge, Andy Bell, deputy chief executive at the Centre For Mental Health said: "It is surprising what we don't know."

“This is not about collecting information because it is interesting. It is, in some areas, about showing where things are going badly wrong."

Alistair Burt, the Minister for Mental Health sought to defend the gaps in the Government's knowledge. 

He said: “I have been working on this issue for some time and agree that there is further to go on mental health data as part of making the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world. We have made big improvements, publishing more statistics than ever before – such as recovery rates and waiting times for psychological therapies.

“We have brought in the first ever waiting times for mental health, setting the NHS challenging targets to drive improvements, and increased mental health funding to £11.7 billion.

“Last Autumn we launched the first national survey of children and young people's mental health since 2004 and will publish a five year plan for mental health data by the end of this year – as recommended by NHS England’s Independent Mental Health Taskforce in February.”

Here are some of the questions the Government was unable to answer:

Q. How many men and women have taken their own lives in the first year after the death of their child?

A. This information is not collected centrally.

Q. How many people diagnosed with a mental health condition received a custodial sentence in each of the last five years?

A. This information is not available centrally.

Q. How many children have died in psychiatric in-patient units each year since 2010?

A. The number of inpatient deaths in child and adolescent mental health services is not collected centrally by the Department of Health.

Q. How many physical injuries have been caused to mental health patients by the use of restraint since 2010?

A. The information requested is not collected centrally.

Q. How many school children have parents with a mental illness?

A. The Department does not collect information on the number of children at any stage of school whose parents are suffering from mental illness.