Taking mental health issues seriously? Jen Robertson’s guest posting

Looking at the news you’d be forgiven for assuming that the House of Commons debated nothing but Syria and terrorism recently, of course that’s not actually the case. One item I found of particular interest was the issue of out of area placements in mental health raised by Norman Lamb. Norman himself has a fantastic record of campaigning for mental health to be taken as seriously as physical health problems are, and indeed his work in this area was one of the things that led to my decision to vote for him in the leadership elections. The issue he raised was the horrific practice whereby those in need of mental health (sometimes including children) care are sometimes sent hundreds of miles away from their homes and families due to a lack of available facilities in their local area.

Norman was fantastic on the subject, as ever. I admit his rhetoric isn’t as good as Tim’s, he seems less likely to ever deliver a speech that could bring a room to it’s feet for his oratory rather than it’s content, but his tireless pursual of mental health issues is wonderful. It’s clear the issue means a lot to him and it is also clear that this is a man who does his research and is far more interested in seeking solutions than in placing blame, something sadly not common enough in politics.

Debate video and transcripts can be found here:

www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/ad0175ac-dbfd-419f-b04d-75da804110f4 (play from about 14:12pm)

www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm151203/debtext/151203-0003.htm (starts partway down the page, just look for Norman’s name)

What really struck me in this debate though was how sparsely it was attended. I was disappointed more of our own didn’t attend, only Norman, Mark Williams and Tom Brake were present, but attendance was even worse for all the other parties. There were a fair handful of Tories present and those that spoke on the issue did so well and respectfully, albeit very briefly, making relevant points and agreeing with Norman’s. The Labour benches (as you can see in this photo) were deserted.

index

So much for this:

www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-creates-new-dedicated-minister-for-mental-health-in-his-shadow-cabinet-10500075.html

Mr Corbyn and his party have a funny way of demonstrating their interest in, and commitment to, mental heath issues. I understand this wasn’t a major debate but it IS an important issue and when you have 232 MPs it shouldn’t be that difficult to find at least one person willing to show up!

The other parties were as far as I can tell (as in I watched the whole debate and couldn’t see evidence of them anywhere unless they’d got lost and sat down amongst the Tories) all notably absent too. I admit to being unsure if the issue is a relevant one in Scotland – if not perhaps the SNP can be excused their non-attendance, but if that is not the case then I’d argue they too have quite enough MPs to find someone to attend! The same excuse might I suppose be offered for the Northern Ireland MPs, I don’t know if they are affected by this issue or not. For the smaller English parties I do understand that a limited number of MPs inevitably means you will not be able to have a presence in the House at all debates, but it does show that this doesn’t seem to have been deemed much of a priority for any of them. Perhaps epitomising perfectly the struggle mental health issues have to achieve parity of esteem and even notice amongst politicians and public alike.

The problem in the debate didn’t lie in any of what was being expressed in the chamber but the fact that more than 90% of it’s members had so little interest in it that they didn’t even show up. How will this important issue ever truly progress without greater support?

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