The Times article on mental health services

Today in Parliament I will be calling on the Government to deliver on their promise of "parity of esteem" between physical and mental health services.

Ahead of my adjournment debate on mental health services in Haringey I have written a piece for The Times: Mental health makes up 23% of UK disease, but gets only 11 of funding.

You can read the full piece below:

After years in the shadows, mental health is now right at the top of the political agenda. With high-profile advocates ranging from Stephen Fry to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, there are few political causes garnering such public attention or support.

But all of that meant nothing when I sat in my advice surgery shortly before Christmas with a family I have known for almost two decades as they explained how their 20 year old son – an active volunteer in his local community who was looking forward to starting his first permanent job – had attempted suicide and is now left with life-changing injuries.

His parents had tried to contact the local crisis team and have him admitted to hospital but there were no beds available.

Despite the rhetoric about improvements to mental health care, the facts speak for themselves.

One in four people will suffer from a mental health problem this year, but three quarters of that number will receive little or no help for their problems. The National Association of Head Teachers have reported that a fifth of children have a mental health problem before reaching the age of 11.

Suicide is now the leading cause of death for men under the age of 45.

Since the government first announced its much-vaunted concept of “parity of esteem” way back in February 2011 there have been numerous announcements, statements and plans. But on the ground, when someone is in real crisis things aren’t changing.

Try calling a crisis helpline and the state of our nation’s creaking mental health service becomes all too apparent. Mental health services are chronically underfunded and are being tasked with the impossible.

3000 beds for people in acute mental health crisis have been cut nationally since the Government committed itself to delivering “parity of esteem”. Mental health services still receive just 11 per cent of the NHS budget, but represent 23 per cent of the UK’s burden of disease. It is clear that mental health services remains secondary to physical health care needs, ignoring both the cost to the economy of £100 billion per year and the human cost.

Locally, the trust which serves my constituency, Barnet, Enfield and Haringey has lost one third of its beds over the last 5-6 years. It is forced to operate at over 100 per cent capacity, sometimes at as much as 128 per cent capacity when the Royal College of Psychiatrists say a safe operating level is 85 per cent.

No matter how many more announcements are made or special taskforces report, without specific additional funding to address this disparity the number of lives blighted by mental health problems will continue to grow.

Actions speak louder than words, and today I will be calling on the government to make good on their promise to ensure true equality between physical and mental health services.

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