Our prevention-focused manifesto for the new Shadow Minister for Mental Health

22 September 2015

All of the main political parties have in recent months demonstrated an increased willingness to push mental health up the public policy agenda. However, in selecting his shadow ministerial team, new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has thrown down the gauntlet to the Conservative government and the other opposition parties with the creation of a shadow minister for mental health.

In addition to reinforcing the importance of mental health, it is our hope that the appointment of Luciana Berger will herald an increased focus on a crosscutting, population-level approach to mental health that emphasises prevention and promoting wellbeing.

The exact details and scope of Luciana Berger’s brief are yet to be set out. Below is a list of what we would like the new shadow minister, and her counterparts in government, to achieve:

1. Ensure mental health is hardwired into all public policies, and not an isolated portfolio

It’s great to see the creation of a single portfolio for mental health, but it must be recognised that mental health affects so many other areas as well. Interdepartmental and cross-party collaboration is the only way to ensure it gets the adequate, well-rounded attention it deserves.

2. Increase investment for mental health research, data and prevention programme

Poor mental health carries an economic and social cost of approximately £100 billion a year in England. Yet public spending is focused almost entirely on coping with crisis, with only insignificant investment in prevention. If we are to gain a real understanding of the cause, risk and prevalence of mental health problems across different groups in society, and which prevention actions will make a real difference, we must ensure decisions are made using robust data, and increase the mental health research being undertaken and prevention programmes being rolled out.

3. Prevent poor health and early death of people that have experienced mental health problems

Anyone can develop a mental health problem and the stark reality is that people living with mental health problems experience poorer physical health and die on average between 10 and 25 years earlier than the rest of the population. This unnecessary mortality gap can be closed by improving access to support for people experiencing a mental health problem, investing in tailored public health programmes for high-risk groups, integrating mental health into all public health campaigns and developing widespread prevention programmes for the general population.

4. Eradicate the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health

Stigma and discrimination have a severe impact on the lives of people with mental health problems (and their families and carers) and are driving factors in maintaining the status quo of poor access to healthcare, reduced life expectancy, exclusion from education and employment, victimisation and hate crime, poverty and homelessness. This can be addressed by:

 

  • implementing existing equality and human rights legislation

 

 

  • improving the mental health literacy of the UK population in order to strengthen and promote the mental health and wellbeing of individuals and communities

 

 

  • increasing public understanding of the impact of mental health problems, knowledge of risk factors, recognition of help-seeking behaviours and appropriate reponses to prevent serious mental health problems from developing.

 

5. Address mental health inequity across the UK

Mental health problems aren’t evenly distributed across society. Social inequalities such as being born into poverty, experiencing discrimination or living with long-term health conditions or disability place people at greater risk. Both the government and opposition parties can address this by adopting an inequalities-focused approach to all decision making, which emphasises the impact of all public policies on mental health determinants including education, employment, housing, social care, policing and urban planning.

As the new shadow cabinet finds it feet, the Mental Health Foundation will be working to get these changes considered so the mental health of the country is protected. You can help us do this by donating now: