The outcome of Thursday’s general election will shape the future direction of mental health services for the next five years, so it is crucial that those with mental health issues have their say.
You may have heard that there is a general election happening this week. As the politicians gear up for a final push to win votes before Thursday, their plans for mental health services will be prominent in the minds of the millions of service users across the country.
Mental health has had greater prominence in this election than ever before. While this isn’t saying much – in 2005 and 2010, mental health barely garnered a mention in the election manifestos of any of the three main parties – it does represent progress. Mental health was mentioned in all 3 of the traditional main parties’ manifestos, even getting onto the front page of the Liberal Democrats’ one.
The parties have all made commitments to what they would do with mental health if they were elected. For instance, the Liberal Democrats pledged to spend an extra £3.5 billion on mental health over the course of the next Parliament if they were elected. This would be used to enhance children’s mental health services, increase access to talking therapies and improve perinatal services, among other things.
Meanwhile Labour outlined its commitment to parity of esteem for mental and physical health services. This would be alongside integration of physical, mental and social care services into a single system ‘built around the individual’. The party would also increase the proportion of the mental health budget spent on children.
The Conservative Party reaffirmed its commitment to parity of esteem and pledged to increase funding for mental health care. In addition, the party would ensure there are therapists in every part of the country providing treatment for those who need it, if they won the election.
Meanwhile, UKIP pledged to spend an extra £1.5 billion on mental health and dementia services and to end the postcode lottery for psychiatric liaison services in acute hospitals and A&E departments, among other things in its manifesto.
Finally, the Green Party pledged to work towards ending the stigma of mental ill health and achieve parity of esteem with physical health services by 2020. It would also increase spending on mental health and ensure no one waits for more than 28 days to access psychological therapies.
While history tells us that anything included in a political manifesto should be taken with a pinch of salt it nonetheless looks like mental health is on the agenda for all the parties and will be a health priority in the years to come.
Of course, the parties have differing views on other areas that impact people with mental health issues – more so than perhaps some other groups in society – such as welfare benefits, housing and general healthcare, which should also be considered.
With that in mind it is vital that people with mental ill health and their family, friends and those who support them get out and vote on Thursday.
Whatever your political persuasion, voting is crucial; it will shape services – and lives – for the next five years.
The parties’ full commitments to mental health can be viewed in their manifestos, which are available online from the party websites.