Opinion: It is time to hardwire mental health and mental wellbeing into all public policy - Kevan Jones MP

It is time to hardwire mental health and mental wellbeing into all public policy - both at a national and local level - Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham

The Government must consider a more joined-up approach to tackle mental illness.

Much progress has been made in recent years to address the stigma concerning mental health and the issue is now clearly on the political agenda. Parliament now regularly debates the issue, most recently discussing women’s mental health. The debate usually returns to the subject of the NHS budgets and the funding of mental health or lack of it. This concentration on NHS funding though important misses a fundamental point  which is adding  to our country’s mental health crisis and pressure on the NHS. That is the failure of policy makers to hardwire mental health into wider public policy.

Policy decision made across Government without thinking about their impact on the nations mental health are not only affecting individual’s mental health but leading to increased costs to the taxpayer and burdens on the NHS. Disproportionate cuts in local government funding have led to many local authorities cutting funding to community and voluntary organisation. Many of these organisations play I vital part not only supporting people in the community with mental health conditions but prevent them arising. Local lunch clubs for example in many communities are important for the elderly preventing them becoming socially isolated. They may not be considered part of our mental health services, but I would argue they play a key part of the prevention agenda.

Another example of where poor policy decisions are increasing the mental health burden is in the area of welfare reforms. The work capability test designed to judge individual’s ability to work takes little or no consideration of those living with mental health conditions. It is framed around a number of descriptors which assess individual’s physical health, resulting in those with mental conditions usually failing the tests and being deemed fit for work. From my experience of constituency cases this leads to huge anxiety for individuals and in some cases leads to demands on the NHS as their managed mental health condition deteriorates. In one individual case I know of, a lady was sectioned after failing her work capability test only to have her benefit reinstate on appeal. This is a poor outcome for the individual and the taxpayer. Sounding tough on welfare may seem strong but the result is a system that is making the situation worse and leading to extra demands on the health service because of poor policy making.

So, what is needed? We need to agree mental health benchmarks by which a policy or spending decision are judged before they are implemented. The aim must be to ensure that policies implemented in one area of government does not increase the demands on mental health services by making an individual’s mental health worse. For example, a policy on reform of the welfare system which simply first asked the question how it will affect individuals mental health would l am convinced avoid the faults of the present system. By addressing the issue of mental health at this early stage of policy development would not only result in better policy but better outcomes for individuals and would save money in the long term.

Kevan was speaking in a House of Commons Debate for Women’s Mental Health  (October 3rd 2019).
He can be reached directly via his website: https://www.kevanjonesmp.org.uk/

Mental Health and the Journey to Parenthood—REPORT

A new report from Healthwatch England exploring the experiences of new mothers shows that some women are not receiving the mental health support they should expect. The report also highlights that triggers like severe sickness in pregnancy, fear of speaking up, and a lack of information about where to turn for help, can all contribute to mental ill-health.

When asked how easy it was to get support for their mental health, nearly half of women said they found the process 'difficult' or 'very difficult' and many feel scared about how people will respond if they speak up. Healthwatch England is therefore calling on health professionals to create more opportunities for new parents to talk about their mental health and to check on the wellbeing of women both during and after pregnancy.
Full report and findings here:  


The Place of Kindness

The Place of Kindness 

Combating loneliness and building stronger communities

Zoë Ferguson, Carnegie Associate

Read the Full Report Here.

Mental Health North East firmly believes that understanding kindness in family, friends and community is a big step on the way to better mental health for us all.

Mental health of children and young people ‘at risk in digital age’

This article posted on the Guardian website by Denis Campbell highlights the growing concerns being raised by MPs about the potential risk of harm to the mental health children and young people of using the web. MHNE would support the call by the commons health select committee for "the Department of Health and NHS England's joint taskforce, now investigating, alongside bodies such as the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, the mental health of under-18s, to assess the impact of social media". Click HERE to read the full article

DBS referrals guidance

This series of downloadable pamphlets brings together all documents relating to DBS referrals guidance click HERE to view

UK-wide Women's Self Injury Helpline Opens

New National Women’s Self Injury Helpline
Emotional support, listening & signposting for women affected by self injury

0808 800 8088 - available Wednesday 7-9pm & Thursday 3-5pm

It is intended that the hours are extended as the service grows.

This is an independent, confidential and anonymous service.  The helpline is run by women for women and we will support anyone who identifies as a woman who wants to talk about self-harm and/or self-injury.

All calls are confidential and answered by specially trained female volunteers.

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Volunteers may listen to calls as part of training
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Line is run by Self Injury Support