On Monday, delivering the annual Charity Commission lecture, Prime Minister Theresa May announced a comprehensive package of measures to transform mental health support in our schools, workplaces and communities. The Prime Minister stated that true parity for mental and physical health can only be achieved if every institution recognises the vital role it can play in delivering this objective.
PM: “I want us to employ the power of government as a force for good to transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society.”
This includes a comprehensive package of reforms to improve mental health support at every stage of a person’s life –with an emphasis on early intervention for children and young people. It also covers new support for schools with every secondary school in the country to be offered mental health first aid training and new trials to look at how to strengthen the links between schools and local NHS mental health staff.
Our Time’s response
We welcome this renewed commitment by government to improve mental health services in general and those for children in particular. It is clear that early help makes economic and social sense but sadly to date at least another four such promises from the previous Secretary of State for Education (Nicky Morgan) and the previous Prime Minister, have not delivered anything because there has been no investment to back up the promises. Mental health services for children have not been protected at the local level and there is evidence that some of the much needed funding has been diverted to other struggling services. We welcome that the Prime Minister wants to find out, ‘what is and what is not working’. We look forward to hearing the detail of how this is to be studied and acted upon. The provision of mental health ‘first aid ‘ training is a move in the right direction but again it depends on how this is designed and delivered. Our work, over the last 15 years, shows that children and teachers would welcome this and we have developed training and resources for schools in our ‘Who Cares?’ programme. The tragedy is that we know what needs to be done and we have the means to do it but not the funding. Until this is forthcoming we will continue to have empty promises and we will have to pay for the damage later in terms of lost tax revenue, high costs for social support and NHS bills for acute treatment because prevention was not politically a priority.
Alan Cooklin, Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and former CEO Kidstime Foundation