Ten years ago, this January, my partner committed suicide, there was no warning and it was completely out of the blue. I cannot begin to tell you how devastating this was for those of us left behind. I too suffered after this with anorexia and turned to a private cognitive therapist. The waiting times to see therapists back then were high and often only group therapy was offered. The advice and help I was given by my therapist along with the loving care of family and friends helped me through this really difficult time.
Recently, I took up playing football with the Parliamentary Women’s football team. I am no footballer and after many months of training I am still no footballer, but what I have discovered is that it has helped my mental health more than any other thing I have undertaken. When I play football, my mind can think of nothing else but the game I am playing. The encouragement I have received from coaches and fellow players has been a real boost and the comradery and friendships is very special and on top of this it is great fun and brilliant way to exercise.
Anyone who suffers with mental health will recognise their triggers and have ways to cope and it is known that exercise, space to breathe and the great outdoors can help. We spend far too much time indoors on phones and computers and I feel passionate about encouraging people to go and play football and get outdoors; have a go, it’s a lot of fun.
This government has started to tackle poor mental health provision. It has introduced the first ever mental health access and waiting time standards, so that 75% of people referred for talking therapies will start treatment within six weeks and 95% within 18 weeks. This is still too high but we are finally starting to see waiting times drop. This is due, in part, to the government committing more money to mental health and in the recent budget at least 2 billion extra funding will be allocated to improvements in mental health services.
To improve mental health care, early intervention is vital, especially in young people and I was delighted to hear the Chancellor announce that he will be prioritising children and young people including support in schools. This is a strong step in the right direction in improving care for young people.
He also announced a £250 million spend in a new crisis service, more mental health specialist ambulance services and community services such as crisis cafes.
It is good to see so many people now talking about mental health to help break down the stigma surrounding it. It has been a long time coming, but progress is being made. However, we need to be mindful that more still needs to be done.