Prime Minister David Cameron is to call for a “more mature” conversation on mental health as he outlines how services in England will benefit from the extra funds allocated in last year’s Autumn Statement.
Among the measures he will announce are specialist support for expectant and new mothers with mental ill health, investment in A&E liaison psychiatry services and new waiting time targets for people experiencing psychosis receiving treatment.
According to a report on the BBC, Cameron will say that mental illness is “nothing to be frightened of.
“As a country, we need to be far more mature about this. Less hushed tones, less whispering; more frank and open discussion.
“We need to take away that shame, that embarrassment, let people know that they're not in this alone, that when the clouds descend, they don't have to suffer silently.
“I want us to be able to say to anyone who is struggling, 'talk to someone, ask your doctor for help and we will always be there to support you'.”
Some of the measures expected, which will apply in England only, included:
• £290 million up to 2020 to give 30,000 more women each year access to specialist pre- and post-natal mental health care
• £247 million over the next five years so that mental services are in every hospital A&E department
• A new waiting time target for teenagers with eating disorders, which will track the number of patients being seen within a month of being referred
• A target that at least half of people experiencing psychosis for the first time are treated within two weeks.
The announcement has been welcomed by mental health bodies. President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Professor Sir Simon Wessely, said:
“One in four of us will suffer from a mental health problem at some point in our lives, and the Prime Minister’s vision of openness and support to all affected is refreshing and something for the UK to aspire to. Mr Cameron’s aspiration of creating mature, open dialogue around mental health, addressing stigma and taboos is something the College strongly supports. The time has clearly arrived for a transformation in mental health: in both the care we offer and the attitude we take.
“We have been lobbying for better mental healthcare for expectant and new mothers and are delighted to see a pledge of some £290 million to offer vital support to an additional 30,000 expectant and new mothers struggling with mental health issues every year. With 1 in 5 new mothers developing a mental health problem around the time of the birth of their child, this money is vital to provide treatments and early interventions for their recovery.
“The promise of £247 million to provide much needed investment in A&E liaison psychiatry services will mean that more people in crisis can expect to receive expert help when they need it most; when they are acutely ill and turn to their local A&E department. Additionally, the investment of over £400 million to enable 24/7 treatment in communities will help provide safe and effective alternatives to hospital when appropriate.
“Supporting the mental health of young people is so important to the mental health of the country as a whole. Evidence tells us that treating mental ill health early on in life – and most mental illnesses develop in the teenage years – is the best way to protect a person’s potential quality of life. Following from last year’s commitment of £1.25 billion to transform mental healthcare for children and young people, we welcome the introduction of waiting time targets, to reduce the length of time that teenagers suffering from eating disorders, and also people experiencing psychosis, have to wait to see a specialist psychiatrist.
“Put simply, more money means fewer problems. Fewer lives impacted by illness, fewer families existing rather than living, fewer constraints on the care provided.”
Sarah Brennan, CEO of YoungMinds, added: “This is the first announcement of its kind from a Prime Minister, and YoungMinds is delighted with government recognition of the importance of good mental health and swift access to care. Improving the mental health of babies, children and young people is an investment for the future of our nation, which the Future in Mind report highlighted so effectively. All the measures in the Prime Minister’s speech must be applied to the needs of children and young people - and not just those measures that specifically name young people.
“This announcement, along with implementing the rest of the Future in Mind strategy, signals the sea-change needed in our response to the thousands of young people who are experiencing extreme distress every day. Prevention, early intervention and treatment for mental health problems should be a given for every single child or young person who need them.”
Brian Dow, director of external affairs at Rethink Mental Illness, also welcomed the announcement, calling the funding allocated to mothers and young people “incredibly welcome” but added a note of caution:
“The investment that's needed to bring mental health provision on par with what we have in this country for cancer, for example, is on a whole different scale,” he said. “Mental health for too long has been the Cinderella service, to the detriment of the 1 in 4 of us that will experience mental health problems at some point in our lives. By 2030 there will be approximately two million more adults in the UK with mental health problems than there are today, so we need to get this right now.”