Yesterday’s World Mental Health Day was used by Theresa May to announce a new ‘world first’ Suicide Prevention Minister. The Tory PR machine knows no bounds. They have a penchant for timely announcements. And now we have a new department to tackle the growing increase in the mental health problems resulting from 8 years of austerity cuts.
The Tories are becoming quite adept at claiming they are now set on tackling the very crises their own policies have brought about. Their ideologically driven austerity regime has both intensified the pressures that worsen mental distress whilst at the same time has run down the treatment services that are needed.
If the Tories are serious about suicide prevention they will need to eradicate the policies that have lead people to believe suicide is their only option. But instead, they are knowingly implementing policies which are damaging mental health and well-being. A point in case; Theresa May refuses to scrap the controversial Work Capability Assessments despite 2017 reports that 47% of women claiming incapacity benefits and undergoing the WCA have attempted suicide. That is more than double since the last recorded NHS data in 2007 (21%) and 40% higher than the general population. And, it has been revealed, Tory ministers had been repeatedly warned of the policy’s shortcomings (SNP Leader Ian Blackford).
Dr Mona Kamal, Junior Doctor and Anti-Austerity campaigner, comments on the reality beneath the Tory ‘sloganeering’. She refers to their “disgraceful record on mental health by a government who have not only continued to withdraw funds from psychiatric services but have been responsible for a social agenda which has wrecked mental health and wellbeing. Mental health trusts in England have suffered real-term budget cuts of 8.25% year-on-year since 2011 (equating to cuts of just over £100 million each year)”.
June’s figures show there are 5054 fewer mental health nurses than in 2010. A quarter of patients are waiting 3 months for Mental Health treatment. Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services have had their funding slashed whilst referrals have gone up 20% with around 55,800 turned away from CAMHS in England in 2017. Children and young adults are travelling up to 285 miles away from home for treatment because of severe bed shortages.
“Despite announcements of new injections of funding, the fact is that back in 2015, the government pledged an extra £1.4 billion over 5 years to transform Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services – the reality was 6% funding cuts to these services in each year that followed” (MK).
So forgive us Prime Minister but yesterday’s pledge to end the “burning injustice” of the mental health crisis is an announcement pill that is a bit hard to swallow. The *spoonful of sugar* Tory PR spin machine rattles on, but the wheels are coming off and it is about to fail its MOT. Evidence speaks louder than opportunistic rhetoric. It is real-time investment in our services that is needed and your government has proved unfit for this purpose.