Labour party announce new policy on suicide prevention.


“As the incidence of mental health conditions continues to rise in children and adolescents, and these experiences can escalate and entrench over time without appropriate help, the need for early intervention in mental health care is vital.  When working with children, play and arts in therapy offer the opportunity for symbolic expression through vivid and shifting metaphor.  This can make all the difference to a child who is struggling to, or is afraid of, explicitly communicating their experiences.  Access to earlier, effective and expert mental health interventions in the community and schools is central to addressing parity between physical and mental health and supporting the health of future generations.”

Sophia O’Neill, Research Writer Play Therapy UK, www.ChildMentalHealthCharter.com.

 

Lack of investment in the NHS has led not just to inadequate services. Poor working conditions and stagnating wages have led to over 10% of nursing roles being left vacant and even more shockingly, 18% of mental health nursing roles being left unfilled.

What MQ and many others working within mental health felt was required was a long-term approach to mental health investment from the government. Unfortunately, the long-anticipated 10-year mental health plan was scrapped in January this year and whilst a new ‘Major conditions strategy’ was announced as it’s replacement, the call for evidence for this has only just opened. Meaning there will be further delays before this is implemented.

 

But does today’s announcement address these issues?

In his speech today, Starmer recognised that more needs to be done to reduce suicide, the biggest cause of death in under 34’s. And whilst this recognition of the problem was welcomed, it remains to be seen whether any of Labours new policies will lead to real change.

The policies announced include:

  • Expanding the NHS workforce.

In particular, by recruiting 8500 mental health staff to cut waiting lists and provide access to talking therapies so that people can access help before they reach crisis. This focus on early intervention is welcomed, although we mustn’t allow any further decoupling of physical and mental health treatment. As identified in MQ’s recent Gone Too Soon paper, we should be actively reducing silos in healthcare, not building them into the fabric of the NHS.

  • They also plan to create community mental health hubs for children and young people with open access, as well as introduce professional support in every school.

This ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach rightly focuses on the need for an increase of preventative action and early interventions across the NHS.

  • Investment in new technology and life sciences to help improve the services delivered and their accessibility.

Harnessing data science, digital interventions and progress in technology has long been a focus of MQ so we welcome this approach.

  • The final key take away is a commitment to research.

Labour has pledged to make all health research, not just mental health, more competitive, more efficient and more accessible by embedding clinical trials within the NHS and increasing training within the workforce so that more research can be conducted in primary care settings.

 

Preventing people from being gone too soon

Recently MQ produced a new paper, published in the Lancet, which made 18 recommendations for reducing suicide and premature mortality among people with mental illnesses or with mental distress.

These recommendations included eliminating silos in health care and improving access, so that physical and mental health conditions could be treated holistically. Improving the screening and early identification of health problems, including early intervention measures. The paper also recommended more investment in mental health, including improving the training and capacity of the mental health workforce.

“I am delighted to see this prioritisation of suicide prevention,” says Professor Rory O’Connor, Director of the Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory at Glasgow University and co-lead author on the Gone Too Soon paper.

“Loss of any life to suicide is devastating but when young lives are cut short it seems especially heartbreaking.  Too many young people are falling through the net; not enough is being done to protect the most vulnerable in society, so I welcome Labour’s focus on early intervention for children and young people. 

Labour’s focus on primary care is also timely – and consistent with our call to action in Gone Too Soon. I hope they deliver more integration of healthcare delivery such that compassionate mental health care is delivered in general practices and that continuity of care is prioritised such that everyone gets the support they need it when they need it especially when in mental health crisis.”

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