By Jane Watkinson and Darrell Goodliffe
As the blog will show, the two main parties have not helped as much as they should with removing the stigmatisation around mental health issues. However, the Liberal Democrats have been the most open and forefront about mental health, which was partially why we both joined the Liberal Democrats. The media is also to blame for the slow progress that is being made in terms of tackling the isolation that mental health causes for many people in society, and with the bias reporting towards the two main parties, there is little scope for the Liberal Democrat’s voice to be heard. Even when the media does report mental health, it is usually a negative representation, or it focuses on specific well-known mental illnesses such as depression.
Regular visitors to Guido Fawkes’ blog will find him frequently asking ‘Is Gordon Bonkers’? ,which is a sad reflection both on Guido’s mentality and how the media’s negativity can seep into the blogsphere. This kind of chicanery has a rather long and inglorious past in politics so it was refreshing to see a senior figure in Alistair Campbell come out and talk about his own experiences and call for an end to the ban on sectioning prohibiting somebody for standing to be an MP.
Interestingly, despite Campbell’s campaigning to help remove the stigmatisation around mental health, we found that the Labour Party had no specific mental health policy on their website. The only thing we found that partially mentioned mental health was under the NHS policy section, and only really touched on the issue, saying:
By 2011, 3,600 more new psychological therapists will have treated 900,000 more people with depression and anxiety, improving their quality of life and reducing the numbers on sick pay and benefits.We also searched the Conservative website’s policy section, and again found that there was no specific section for mental health. This is very disappointing, when 1 in 4 suffer from mental illness. A policy that helps highlight the failings of the two parties to tackle mental health issues, is the Disability Discrimination Act (1995). Both parties have had their part to play with its enforcement, but both have failed to make sure it properly helps protect disabled people, specifically the mentally ill. This was reported by Public Interest Research Unit (2005), who looked at the 10 year span of the DDA.
When it comes to our own policies this is very much something we can be proud of as a party. Our website has a comprehensive run-down of policies and Nick Clegg has gained recognition for speaking out on mental health issues. It is good that we are pioneering giving mental health patients guarantees and calling for investment in infrastructure in what we rightly conclude is a neglected area of the NHS. However, we need to carefully consider the ramifications on this in saying we will allow the NHS to ‘pay for treatment’ in the private sector; almost certainly at punitively high rates (unless we are proposing price fixing) which will undermine the goals we have set. This is one political taboo which we can confidently say we are leading the way in addressing however, there is still work to be done before we can make headway in winning the battle to shape government policy on this issue and making it part of the political discourse.