Liberal Democrat Care Minister Norman Lamb has told Samaritans volunteers of his ‘mission’ to put mental health on a par with physical health, during a visit to their centre in Solihull.
Mr Lamb praised Lorely Burt – seeking re-election as MP for Solihull – for her successful recent campaign to get more mental health beds for Solihull residents.
The Minister spoke passionately of how mental health had affected his own family. He described his work introducing waiting-times targets for mental health treatment and outlined Lib Dem proposals to raise mental healthcare funding by £3.5 billion over the next Parliament.
Samaritans volunteers quizzed Mr Lamb about his views on mental health and discussed their own experiences helping distressed people in Solihull.
Solihull Samaritans took 26,500 phone calls in 2013. They also help people through text messages, emails and face-to-face visits.
Mr Lamb said
“It was a privilege for me to meet the hard-working Samaritans volunteers who literally save people’s lives in Solihull.
“Equal treatment for mental and physical healthcare has been my personal mission as a Minister and I know Lorely is passionate about this too because she raised this herself in Parliament. I was delighted when her campaign for more local mental health beds succeeded.
“We need to end the stigma and discrimination that have held back mental healthcare. The Liberal Democrats would commit £3.5 billion more funding to mental health in the next Parliament, improve access to talking therapies and work to keep vulnerable people who are unwell out of police cells.
“This is a top priority for us and it’s on the front page of our manifesto.”
Hilary Harrison, Director of Solihull Samaritans, said,
“It was great to introduce Norman and Lorely to our volunteers.
“On average, we respond to one call every ten minutes at our branch alone. Our callers, who are usually in distress or despair, value the opportunity to talk to our team of volunteers about how they are feeling and the problems they are struggling with - and it is a privilege for us to listen to them.
“As a charity, we are dependent on our fantastic volunteers, and contributions from businesses and individuals, to make sure we can continue to offer this important service.”
Lorely Burt said
“The recent rise in male suicides shows that the Samaritans are needed more than ever. At the same time, so is more investment in mental healthcare.
“I am very proud that the Lib Dems are the first party to commit to giving equal esteem to physical and mental healthcare and we have a costed plan to do it.
“In any given year one person in four will suffer mental health problems. The Samaritans help all kinds of people with different problems.
“I hope the new mental health beds which have been promised by the Mental Health Trust will go some way to alleviating the burden.”
Liberal Democrat mental health policy in brief
Lib Dems will increase mental health spending in the English NHS by £500m a year – half of which we delivered in this year’s budget – and provide the cash for similar investments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They will:
- Continue to roll out access and waiting time standards for children, young people and adults. This will include a waiting time standard from referral of no more than six weeks for therapy for depression or anxiety and a two-week wait standard for all young people experiencing a first episode of psychosis.
- Increase access to clinically and cost-effective talking therapies so hundreds of thousands more people can get this support. Our long-term goal is to see everyone who can benefit being treated, but we will set an interim target of getting 25% of those suffering into treatment
- Ensure no one in crisis is turned away, with new waiting time standards and better crisis care in Accident and Emergency (A&E), in the community and via phone lines. This will enable us to end the use of police cells for people facing a mental health crisis.
Why it is necessary
One in four of us will experience mental health problems like depression or anxiety. For decades mental health has been the last in the queue when it comes to funding and attention. Mental health problems cost the country as much as £100bn each year yet as few as a quarter of people with depression get access to treatment.
Mental health represents nearly a quarter of ill health in our country (23%) but only £1 in every £9 the NHS spends is on specialist mental health services. Better care for mental health is a key factor in building a stronger economy and a fairer society. The moral and the economic case for change is overwhelming.
Photographs show (top) Norman Lamb with Lorely Burt addressing Samaritans volunteers, and (side) Lorely Burt meeting Solihull Samaritans Chief Executive Hilary Harrison