"We need more cash to help the mentally ill" - Howarth

October 10, 2008 1:56 PM
mental health bus

David Howarth and campaigner Giles Chesterman board the bus

Cambridge MP David Howarth boarded the 1 in 4 Big Bus today (Friday) to back a campaign aimed at raising the stigma attached to mental health.

Mr Howarth visited the bus when it arrived in Cambridge city centre to mark World Mental Health Day and was interviewed by a camera crew about the problems facing the mentally ill.

He said that, in the past, the health service had not put enough emphasis on mental health and had treated it as an "add on", cutting back on the service's funding when times are tough.

"The system tends to hold back from helping people with long term conditions," he said. "There have been some improvements in mental health care and treatments but still more needs to be done.

He added that the Government had prepared policy documents for improvements in mental health but had not followed it through with cash.

"There has not been a corresponding improvement in service, especially for people in this part of the country," he said.

In the past a lot of emphasis has been put on drug treatments but it is important to offer behavioural and talking treatments as well. There has been a tendency to concentrate on the easiest treatments. We need a choice of therapies.

"I think we have a very long way to go until we have a society which respects people equally. We need to be a much more caring society and respect people as individuals."

Visitors to the Big Bus were able to find out about 70 local services providing support such as access to training and work, financial and legal help, counselling, a listening ear, advocacy, support, advice and guidance.

Representatives from these services were also available to give information directly, including free legal advice.

There was an awareness raising exhibition and the film crew interviewed passers by about their attitudes and views on mental health.

One in four people will experience a mental health problem during the course of a year but the stigma attached to mental illness will stop many of them for seeking help when they most need it, said campaigners.

"I was delighted to support this campaign to raise awareness of an illness experienced in some form by a quarter of the population," said Mr Howarth.

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