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Liberal Democrats in Sevenoaks, Dartford and Gravesham

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Tackling mental heath requires more than just money.

September 26, 2018 3:24 PM
By Tristan Ward


Mental health is as damaging to individuals and families as physical ill health. It accounts for around 23% of all British disease. It causes acute suffering and affects life, sometime resulting in suicide. It is as humane to treat mental health and make people whole as it is to treat, say, back pain, cancer or a broken leg. A decent society looks after people who are ill, and that includes people who are mentally ill.
We all know looking after people costs money. Why should money be spent on mentally ill people rather than (say) defence or schools, physical heath, or any other worthy cause competing for the tax we pay? The answer is obvious - mental health costs Britain £70 billion a year says the Economic Co-operation and Development (2014 figures). In 2014 15.2 million working days were lost because of mental illness. Investment in treatment of mental illness should both reduce human suffering and produces a return in hard cash as well.
But Liberal Democrats would go beyond the £1.25 billion promised for children and young people by Liberal Democrat Minister Norman Lamb in the coalition Government (resources not found by the current government). We demand better. Teachers must be trained to recognise mental health issues in pupils and provide immediate access to support. Children can helped to realise their potential and the stress on parents can be reduced.
We would insist on comprehensive standards on waiting times and access for mental health patients, as accepted by the Tories in coalition (no resources again under the current government) and not even mentioned by Labour when they were last in office.
In government Liberal Democrats secured £150million for treatment of eating disorders in young people, close to home. In the future maximum waiting times must be enforced. The scandal of the mentally ill being shunted round the country for treatment must end. We demand better than this.
In the workplace employers that take action to improve the wellbeing of their employees can be rewarded by a reduction in business rates, providing a carrot for companies doing the right thing, starting with a trial in the West Midlands proposed by Norman Lamb.
Liberal Democrats would ensure research into mental health and its prevention and cure would receive a fair share of research funding to reflect the fact that it is nearly one quarter of all disease.
The Liberal Democrats exist to champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals and their right to develop their talents to the full. Money for research and treatment of mental disease helps do exactly that. And it benefits the country and economy too.

Tristan Ward is a former Liberal Democrat councillor for Horton Kirby and South Darenth