Using Your Vote For Mental Health 

Your vote matters, in fact it is a precious right that you should exercise however disenfranchised you may feel about today’s political parties. Incredibly it was only in 2006 that the rights of those in care of psychiatric institutions were fully realised.

Until 1949 individuals resident is psychiatric institutions were simply denied the right to vote on the basis of stigmatic views relating to competence. Following the Representation of the People Act this stigma was unofficially reinforced by refusing to allow patients the opportunity to register for their vote while receiving psychiatric care. Through Mind’s excellent work in 1999 and the support of Labour's Jack Straw (then Home Secretary) the voting rights of people suffering from mental health issues were gradually transformed.

Using your vote in the 2015 UK General Election is not just about voting for a party, it is about representing the hundreds of thousands of individuals who were denied the right to vote on the basis of their mental health. (Find out more about your voting rights Click Here
 

How you can use your vote for Mental Health

 

If you are passionate about using your vote to benefit those who are struggling with mental health issues you may find it helpful to know what each of the main UK political parties are saying about the issues within their manifesto. I have set out the available material as fairly as possible below, the disparity in representation between the parties does not reflect my political bias, but simply the huge variations in the focus on mental health between these parties. 
 

Labour Party (Leader: Ed Milliband)

 

What Ed said, “It cannot be right that when three quarters of adult mental illness begins in childhood, children’s mental health services get just six per cent of the mental health budget – nor that these vital services have been stripped back in recent years while £3bn has been wasted on an NHS reorganisation. Labour will work to reverse the damage suffered by child mental health services under this Government. And we will set an ambition that, over time, the proportion of the mental health budget spent on children will rise as we make smart investments to improve mental health in childhood, in the process lessening some of the demand on mental health services when young people turn into adults.”

Key Proposals:

  1. 1) Children to get early support in emotional and mental health (with teachers as well as all NHS workers receiving training)
  • 2) Working towards a 28 day access time for talking therapies
  • 3) Community and work culture addressed to be more mental health aware and friendly
  • 4) Continued support for the Time to Change Campaign

What is lacking:

  • 1) Any financial or proportional information about the Mental Health budget
  • 2) Any provision for older persons mental health (Alzheimer’s or Dementia)
  • 3) Any mention of changes to disability rights or allowances for mentally ill people
  •  

Conservative Party (Leader: David Cameron)

 

What David said: David acknowledged that successive governments had "short-changed" children and young people. His government had pledged more money to mental health for services such as cognitive therapies, had introduced waiting time targets and was committed to parity of esteem with physical health.

Key Proposals:

  • 1) Spend £1.25 Billion additional money on Mental Health provision (Over 5 years inc current term)
  • 2) Mental Health to be ‘on par’ with physical health provision
  • 3)Talk therapy to be accessible nation-wide for all who need it
  • 4)Better support for post-natal mental health including post-partum psychosis
  • 5) Enforce improved waiting time standard to treatment
  • 6) Police Cells to no longer be used as ‘safe spaces’ for MH triage

What is Lacking:                                                                                  

  • 1) Much specific focus on CAMS
  • 2) Any revision of benefits policy that adversely impacts MH sufferers
  • 3) Anything on older persons mental health
  •  

Liberal Democrats (Leader Nick Clegg)

 

What Nick said: “Liberal Democrats believe that no matter who you are, where you come from and what your circumstances, you should not be denied the opportunity to fulfil your potential. Yet, in Britain today, millions of people are denied the opportunity to get on and live happy, fulfilling lives because they live with mental health issues. One in four of us will experience mental health problems at some point in our lives. In every classroom in Britain there are three children who will have a mental health problem. And yet, for decades, mental health services have been neglected by successive governments, the poor relation of physical health problems. And that neglect has come hand in hand with a devastating stigma that has left people isolated and alone. That’s why in Government, the Liberal Democrats have slowly started to undo that damage. We have enshrined equality for mental health treatment in law. We have introduced the first ever waiting times standards. We have invested hundreds of millions of pounds in talking therapies and services for young people with eating disorders. And we set up the first ever cross-government Mental Health Taskforce to make sure every department is working to tackle mental health issues in their sphere of influence. In the coalition government’s final Budget we secured more than a billion pounds to revolutionise services for children and young people, alongside the first ever waiting times standards and a plan to roll out talking therapies across England. But we cannot and must not rest there. Equality for people with mental health issues is a liberal mission. As this document sets out, in Government again, we will continue to put mental health front and centre of the political debate. That's why I am so immensely proud that we are the first party to put equality for people with mental health problems on the front page of our full General Election manifesto. Liberal Democrats understand the value of our world class public services. We won’t risk them with deep and unnecessary cuts as the Conservatives will. And we won’t jeopardise them by risking our economic recovery with a return to reckless borrowing as Labour will. Only the Liberal Democrats can keep Britain on track and provide both a stronger economy and a fairer society with strong public services. Only the Liberal Democrats can and will make sure mental health is treated with the same urgency as physical health, with money to back that up. We will challenge the stigma every day, ending the discrimination against mental health.”

Key Proposals:

  • 1) Funding boost of £500m per year in the next parliament (5 years) for better mental health care.
  • 2) Continue to roll out access and waiting time standards for children, young people and adults.
  • 3) Increase access to clinically and cost effective talking therapies
  • 4) Ensure that no one in crisis will be turned away, with new waiting time standards and better crisis care in hospital A&E.
  • 5) Invest £250m over five years in transforming care for pregnant women, new mothers and those who have experienced miscarriage or still birth
  • 6) £1.25bn over five years to revolutionise children’s mental health services
  • 7) Establish a world-leading mental health research fund, investing £50m research
  • 8) Radically transform mental health services; extending the use of personal budgets and integrating care more fully with the rest of the NHS

           (See the full manifesto Click Here)

What is Lacking:

  • 1) Any reference to older persons mental heath
  •  

UKIP (Leader: Nigel Farage)

 

Nigel says: (Sorry, nothing here) but… Louise Bours UKIP MEP for Health says: “Aside from the personal anguish it causes, mental illness led to the loss of 70 million working days last year and in terms of lost productivity, benefit payments and absence from work it costs the economy between £70bn and £100bn. The rise in the number of mental health conditions has coincided with cuts to mental health services and psychotherapy posts in many parts of the country and money must be invested to replace these posts.”

Key Proposals:

  • 1) Increase mental health funding by £170m annually (5 year term)
  • 2) Give mental health parity of esteem with physical health
  • 3) Directing those with long-term conditions or terminal illness to mental health support
  • 4) Offer mental health care to those with addictions
  • 5) Specialist support to pregnant women and mothers
  • 6) Invest an extra £130m into dementia treatment and research

What is Lacking:

  • 1) A quote from Nigel Farage
  • 2) A real focus on child mental health
  •  

The Green Party (Leader: Natalie Bennett)

 

Natalie says: “Many people experience mental health difficulties at some point in their lives, with numbers increasing due to widening inequality and economic uncertainty in recent years. Despite this, mental health is something that we are not very good at talking about as a society. The Green Party is signing the Time to Change pledge to help create a positive shift in public attitudes towards mental health issues, to promote wellbeing, and to eradicate discrimination and stigma. Through working with Time to Change we hope to be an example of best practice as an organisation that supports its staff and members’ mental health.”

Key Proposals:

  • 1) Rise in real terms spending on mental health
  • 2) 28 day waiting time to access talk therapies
  • 3) People in crisis have access to care within 24 hrs
  • 4) End of police cells as ‘safe places’
  • 5) Local beds for those who need them
  • 6) Implement a campaign to end stigma and discrimination with Time to Change
  • 7) Invest in Dementia services
  • 8) Special attention to mental health in new mothers and minority groups
  • 9) Improve access to additions services
  • 10) Address the physical health needs of those with mental health issues

What is Lacking:

  • 1) Credible figures relating to spending or percentages of budget spending 
  •  

Scottish Nationalist Party (Leader: Nicola Sturgeon)

 

Nicola says: (Sorry very little from the SNP about Mental Health and nothing specific in their manifesto) Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie calls on Ms Sturgeon, “If we are to create opportunity for all, the new First Minister must use her first programme for Government to set out a new agenda on mental health. We need a new law to ensure equality between mental health and physical health in our NHS. People in England already have that equality, so we deserve it in Scotland too. The Scottish Government has a duty to change attitudes, to reduce the stigma and to guarantee that people with mental illness are treated equally to those with physical illness.”

Key Proposals:

  • 1) 2 Billion of extra funding of NHS Scotland over the next 5 years

What is Lacking:

  • 1) Any specific focus on mental health
  • 2) Any recognition of specific societal needs
  • 3) Any acknowledgement of the current debate  
  •  

Voting Well

However you choose to vote in the General Election, enjoy the democratic freedom that empowers you. Pray for those who are in leadership and carry the responsibility for seeing a huge improvement in the provision of mental health services within the UK. Also pray for those in other nations and our own, who through discrimination, repression and stigmatisation are denied their basic rights becuase of mental ill-health. 

Will Van Der Hart, 06/05/2015