THE DUKE and Duchess of Cambridge have helped bring about a “landmark moment” in mental health treatment, according to the head of charity Mind.
Paul Farmer said the royals’ role in promoting greater awareness and understanding is a crucial part of a new, positive approach to the conditions that blight one in four Britons.
He also praised the Sunday Express for its campaign to bring mental health into the open.
The Duchess last week called for the “taboo” of mental health to be broken and for fresh help to be delivered to an “entire generation of children”. Her intervention came as an NHS Taskforce on mental health delivered landmark recommendations, promising to hold the government to account if they were not met.
The Duchess and Prince William have a “hugely impressive” commitment to mental health, said Mr Farmer, chief executive of Mind and leader of the Taskforce.
“They have a real interest and a commendable long term commitment to mental health,” he added.
“Their involvement – and that of others – is all part of a transformation in mental health and this is very important.
“It raises awareness and encourages people to reach out and seek help when many would not have otherwise.
“People look up to them as public figures that they trust and when you see a public figure you trust and like being open about an issue then that increases confidence to find help.”
The state of the nation’s mental health system has been branded “prehistoric”, with fractured services and funding cuts leading to patients being denied beds or being sent for counselling hours away from home.
The NHS spends £9.2billion a year on mental health while the cost of poor mental health to the economy runs at around £105billion a year, with life expectancy reduced by 15-20 years for those with severe problems, according to NHS England figures.
Prime Minister David Cameron has announced £1billion a year extra funding for mental health which will provide increased access to talking therapies for conditions such as anxiety, stress and depression; a screening programme to boost physical health for people with mental health problems; mental health teams in A&E units and more support for pregnant women and new mothers.
“We have a real sense this is a landmark moment for mental health which should see the transition from the awareness that has grown over the last few years into some real action and change on the ground,” added Mr Farmer, who as will co-ordinate a five-year programme of service improvements.
“This has come about from extensive groundwork and campaigns such as the Sunday Express crusade which has been running for a number of years, ensuring the issue is on the agenda and is kept on the agenda.
“We have made some real progress. This is about a mind-set change in the NHS around mental heath and I think people are really ready to do something about this, especially for children because people are very worried about the unmet need for child mental health.”
A £250million programme to help children and young people is about to start with a focus on early intervention and bridging the chasm between children and adult mental health services.
“There will be a greater focus on transparency in the NHS as it has been very difficult for people to see what is going on in the mental health system and this will help improve confidence,” said Mr Farmer.
The Taskforce has made 58 recommendations, with proposed annual progress check-ups.
• 600,000 people to have access to talking therapies
• 70,000 more children and young people to access high quality treatment by 2020
• £290million investment to help 30,000 more new and expectant mothers with poor mental health
• £247million to embed mental health services in A&E departments
• Two-week target time to treat 50 per cent of people with psychosis, rising to 60 per cent by 2020
• Investment in crisis resolution and home treatment teams to operate 24 hours a day as an alternative to hospitals.
“We are trying to get parity of esteem for mental health,” added Mr Farmer.
“We are changing minds and attitudes and the Taskforce report will help change the NHS and government approach.
“It all helps contribute to someone, who is anxious about their mental health, feeling it is okay to reach out and seek help and that you won’t be judged or stigmatised because there are people, from friends, family and neighbours, to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who will support you.”
This article first appeared on ‘Express’ on 21 February 2016.