December 10, 2005
Here is a test for you. When you see the words ‘mental health’ is your instinct to read on or turn the page? Before becoming an MP I was a turner of the page.
Here is a test for you. When you see the words ‘mental health’ is your instinct to read on or turn the page? Before becoming an MP I was a turner of the page. However a recent meeting changed my view. It brought me face to face with an unsettling truth about our society. The statistical probability is that one in five of my constituents will have a mental health problem. We are encouraged to believe that we have never had it so good, and yet at any one time 1 million Londoners experience a common mental health problem such as depression. The problem impacts all ages and communities. One in five are under the age of 15. Bullying at school is on the increase. 5.6 million London work days are lost a year due to work related stress. 5% of over 65s have dementia. As a society we do not deal with this problem well. Almost of all mental care in London comes entirely within primary care. Waiting times for the most effective treatments such as talking therapy can be between 6 and 9 months. So we tend to use more drugs leaving 50% of people with depression still suffering symptoms of the illness 12 months after diagnosis. How much is mental ill health costing us? According to the Cares Services Improvement Partnership, a staggering £77 billion a year in direct and indirect costs . That financial and human cost to society is too high. This is a time of year for thinking of others and the standards we set ourselves. My thought for the month is that it is time to challenge the stigma associated with mental illness. It is not something that happens to ‘them’, it happens to us – our families, friends, work colleagues and neighbours. Happy Christmas!. "