Last week Theresa May announced that she would be making mental health a priority. This is of course a welcome announcement but a crisis in mental health support is not a recent revelation; this issue has plagued society for years now and it speaks volumes that she is only now recognising the severity of the issue.
Since austerity was introduced by the Tories, my office has helped hundreds of constituents with mental health issues struggling to make ends meet due to having their benefits reduced or stripped completely. Since the Tories were elected in 2010, mental health budgets have been cut in real terms by over £600 million.
Despite this, Theresa May somehow claimed improved mental health services as an achievement during her resignation speech. In reality, support services are being stretched to breaking point with the growing number of referrals.
It is all well and good now recognising that mental health should be a priority, but to do this the Tories need to abandon policies that discriminate against people with mental health issues. In particular, ploughing ahead with the rollout of Universal Credit despite it being described by healthcare professionals as the single biggest driver of demand for mental health services.
Theresa May announced that she wants to ensure teachers can identify children who might have mental health problems; at university level, there will be £1m for a competition to come up with innovative ideas to tackle mental health problems among students; NHS staff will be encouraged to take suicide prevention training; and she also promised the publication of a White Paper.
These are all welcome commitments and I hope whoever is our next Prime Minster upholds these promises and ensures a parity between mental and physical health. I hope we do actually see an end to austerity as a direct effect of this policy has been the cutting of vital services in place to support those with mental health issues.
Suicide is the leading cause of death to young people. We need a Prime Minister who recognises that this cannot carry on.