milibandLabour leader Ed Miliband has emphasised the importance of mental health services and early intervention in his speech at the Labour party conference.

Miliband said that Britain has "swept mental health under the carpet for too long.”

He added: “If you've got a bad back you can talk about it, but if you've got depression and anxiety you don't want to talk about it. We've got to change that. It's an afterthought in our National Health Service.”

Miliband talked about a letter he had received recently from a 17-year-old girl with depression and anxiety, who ended up in hospital for 10 weeks, and her assertion that if someone had identified the problem when it started three years earlier she wouldn't have ended up in hospital and costing the state. “It's about the early identification,” he said.

He added that, if Labour wins the next general election, he wants to: “[Bring] together physical health, mental health and all the care for the needs of the elderly: a true integrated national health service.”

His comments have been welcomed by Sean Duggan, chief executive of Centre for Mental Health. "Mental health is one of the biggest inequalities facing society and the national health service today and so we welcome Ed Miliband's acknowledgement of the scale of the challenge,” he said.

“The importance of prevention and early intervention, as touched on by Miliband, is something we believe is incredibly important.

“We hope that all parties commit to taking mental health seriously and continue to work towards the parity of esteem between physical and mental health."