Earlier this month, I launched a new booklet about mental health, containing a selection of essays Conservative MPs on different aspects of mental health policy – including different approaches to treatment, the importance of early intervention with children and the impact of mental health problems on armed forces veterans.
This is an issue that I care deeply about, and one that I know directly affects a very large number of the people I represent in Halesowen & Rowley Regis.
Despite the fact that one in four people will experience some kind of mental health problem in any year, mental health has long seemed to be the “Cinderella service” within the NHS – underfunded and not given the same priority as other health conditions.
As Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health, I have been working hard in Parliament to push mental health up the political agenda.
Last year, together with other MPs, I appeared before the House of Commons’ Backbench Business Committee to argue for parliamentary time to discuss mental health.
The resulting debate – the first on mental health for several years – was a moving occasion, with a wide range of impassioned and well-informed speeches and some of my colleagues spoke of how they had personally been affected by metal health problems and how that affected their work as MPs.
It is vital that we improve our approach to mental health. The cost to the economy of mental health problems is well over £100billion a year and the human and social costs are immeasurable.
We should reconsider the exponential rise in prescriptions for drug-based treatments that address the symptoms of mental health problems.
In many cases alternatives, such as “talking therapies”, would be much more effective in addressing the underlying causes of the problem.
I am working closely with Dr Ian Walton, a Sandwell GP who is one of the country’s leading experts in working with patients experiencing mental health issues, to learn more about the innovative work being done locally to change the way mental health problems are treated.
The way we deal with mental health will say much about our values as a society.
As modern life becomes more complex and challenging there is an urgent need to ensure that we deal with mental illness, not as something with which to stigmatise people, but as a real health issue which demands a compassionate, coherent and effective response.
■ You can download the booklet Making Up Our Minds: Towards improving our approach to mental health at www.jamesmorrismp.com (http://www.jamesmorrismp.com/news/making-our-minds-collection-essays-improving-our-approach-mental-health)