At the annual Charity Commission lecture on Monday, the Prime Minister Theresa May MP announced a package of measures aimed at eliminating the stigma surrounding mental illness and improving mental health services in schools, workplaces and the community.
In particular, the measures were focused on early intervention in the mental health of children and young people. Figures show that over half of mental health problems start by the age of 14, and 75% by the age 18 .
The measures also involved launching a review into how to improve support for employees experiencing mental illness. This is part of a shift of focus towards greater community care.
The Prime Minister stated that she wants to “employ the power of government as a force for good to transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society, and at every stage of life.”
In her speech, Theresa May MP announced that every secondary school would be offered mental health first aid training. This is to help teach people how to identify symptoms of mental illness and how to help those who may be developing a mental health problem.
The Prime Minister also announced that the former chairman of Halifax Bank of Scotland, Lord Dennis Stevenson, and the Chief Executive Officer of the mental health charity Mind, Paul Farmer, would lead a review into improving mental health in the work place.
Theresa May stated that a review of child and adolescent mental health services, led by the Care Quality Commission, was also to be launched. Theresa May has also committed to speeding up the delivery of new digital mental health provision. The provision includes an online service where patients are able to check their symptoms and access digital therapy, rather than waiting for a face-to-face appointment, which may take longer.
The Prime Minister also announced that there would be a review of the ‘health debt form’, under which patients are being charged up to £300 by GPs for documentation to prove to debt collectors that they have mental health issues.
Finally, Theresa May declared support for NHS England’s commitment to eliminate out-of-area inpatient placements for children and young people. She stated that by 2021, no child would be sent away from their local area to receive treatment for mental health issues.
Professor Sir Simon Wessely, the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, welcomed Theresa May’s “new and bold vision” but said: “We have a long way to go before mental health services are on an equal footing with those for physical disorders.”
The Patients Association welcomes the Prime Minister’s commitment to tackling the stigma attached to mental illness. We also back the government’s increased focus on mental health support in schools and the work place.