Friday, 2 November 2012

Opinion: Debate around mental health must be in the political mainstream

Opinion: Debate around mental health must be in the political mainstream

On Monday Ed Miliband made a speech to the Royal College of Psychiatrists concerning the taboo surrounding mental illness. He spoke about the devastating human and economic consequences of failing to address the under- provision in mental health treatment and promised that, amongst other things, a Labour Government would re-write the constitution of the NHS in order to address this under provision.

In my previous post on this website I wrote about the motion concerning mental health which was passed at the Lib Dems autumn conference in Brighton.

I mentioned how I go through good and bad days with my own anxiety and depression problems and why the passing of the motion had reaffirmed my faith in my membership of the Lib Dems.

I am writing this article because I have just been through one of those bad spells and I wanted to get these words down – partly because writing helps me – but mainly because I want to describe the importance of this issue from a personal perspective while it is still fresh in my mind.

This afternoon I had a severe onset of anxiety and panic – breaking down, becoming paranoid and despondent, and feeling completely desolate and miserable. I spent a couple of hours lying in bed and trying to sleep – even though I knew that this was not the thing I should be doing. Such are the effects of mental illness.

I am slowly beginning to realise that these are just phases which will pass in time, but that hardly makes them any easier to cope with.

Ed Miliband was quite correct in what he said on Monday but, not for the first time, the Lib Dems have beaten him to it. The majority of what he said was either included in the September conference motion or was covered by the fantastic speakers who were called to speak during the debate – including of course Lib Dem Health Minister Norman Lamb MP.

This is, however, an issue which is too important to be subject to the usual party political snipping. As we know failure to help people with mental illness has a devastating economic impact on the NHS and also affects one in four people in the population.

It is doubtful that there are many more issues which are as widely relevant as this, because we are talking of an issue, which will have affected almost everybody you speak to when campaigning on the doorstep or during the course of a casual conversation.

So, alongside the other Lib Dem achievements in Government, why not tell people about the work Norman Lamb and Paul Burstow have been doing in Government and about the motion adopted by the party at conference? Chances are either they will either have suffered themselves or they will know someone who has.

Raising awareness of the impacts of mental illness is not only the right thing to do but it has surely never been more important.

* Tim Purkiss is a party member from Somerset and blogs at Nation Discussion

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