Mental illness 'biggest UK health challenge' - Miliband


Ed Miliband: "Fighting the taboo is the first thing we need to do"

Related Stories

The problem of mental illness in the UK is the "biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age", Labour leader Ed Miliband has said.

It "blights the lives of millions", costing UK business £26bn and the NHS an extra £10bn a year, he said.

Mr Miliband wants to give patients the same legal right to mental health therapies as physical healthcare.

He criticised some celebrities for reinforcing the taboo around mental health and called for a culture change.

Mr Miliband was giving his first major speech since the Labour Party conference where he adopted the "one nation" slogan created by 19th Century Tory Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

He said that just as Disraeli addressed the national challenge of sanitation in the 19th Century, and the foundation of the NHS followed in the 20th Century, the mental health challenge facing the UK must be addressed this century.

"One in four of us will have a mental illness at some point in our lifetime," Mr Miliband said.

Start Quote

Good mental health doesn't start in hospital or the treatment room, it starts in our workplaces, our schools and our communities”

End Quote Ed Miliband Labour Party leader

"There are so many people in Britain today who could be treated but who are intimidated from seeking help. And so many people who need support but... believe that no-one will care.

"For far too long our leading politicians have been far too silent about mental health, part of a taboo running across our society which infects both our culture and our politics.

"A change of culture has happened with illnesses that have previously been taboo: from cancer to Aids to other sexually transmitted diseases.

"But it hasn't yet happened as much as it needs to with mental health."

The Labour leader criticised those in the public eye who "abuse the privilege of their celebrity to insult, demean and belittle others".

Sickness absence

This includes Janet Street-Porter and Jeremy Clarkson, whose "lazy caricatures" reinforce the taboo on the issue, he said.

"Just as we joined the fight against racism, against sexism and against homophobia, so we should join the fight against this form of intolerance."

He announced proposals to improve mental health provision in the NHS, including:

  • Rewriting the NHS constitution to enshrine patients' legal right to therapies for mental illness
  • Mental health training for all staff
  • Better integration of physical and mental healthcare, and social care

"Mental ill-health is a cradle to grave problem with nothing like a cradle to grave service," he said, with some funds earmarked for mental health services not being used for the right purpose.

Neglecting the problem ends up costing the NHS more, Mr Miliband argued, "in the strains and demands placed on those who carry the burden of care and in the trouble stored up over the years as minor problems become major ones".

Meanwhile, the annual costs to UK business are £15bn in reduced productivity, £8.5bn in sickness absence, and £2.5bn to replace staff who can no longer work.

The Labour leader is setting up a taskforce - led by the chairman of Barts Health NHS Trust, Stephen O'Brien - to draw up a strategic plan for mental health in society.

Mr Miliband said: "Too often governments have been stuck in a mindset that thought that physical health should always take priority - or that the answer to our health crises started and stopped with new government programmes.

"But good mental health doesn't start in hospital or the treatment room, it starts in our workplaces, our schools and our communities.

"So the task falls as much to organisations like the CBI as it does to the Royal College of Psychiatrists. In fact, everybody has a part to play. Only a nation acting together can overcome the challenge we face."

Mental health charities welcomed Mr Miliband's speech and his commitment to giving patients a legal right to therapies for mental illness.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: "Mental health is everyone's business. We are now seeing politicians finally realise that it isn't just the responsibility of health services to support people with mental health problems and that they have their own role to play in changing attitudes."

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said: "It is extraordinary that despite the scale of the challenge and the fact that mental illness costs the NHS and employers more than any physical condition, people do not have a legal right to therapies for mental health problems."

Rethink Mental Illness praised Mr Miliband for making mental health a priority, particularly improving the training of NHS staff: "As things stand, you can become a doctor having only studied mental health for a few days.

"As a result many health professionals do not have a good enough understanding of mental illness."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • Comment number 336.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    I would love to see a suitably low opinion taken of celebs and comedians who lazily mock and reinforce mental health stereotypes. But unless we also address the bullying at the heart of UK culture they'll just find another group - fat people being the current 'safe' targets, but also immigrants, drug users, benefit claimants, basically any without an advocacy group. Stigma & hatred solve NOTHING.

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    Some of the comments highlight we are still ignorant as a nation on mental health

    We still have an attitude than unless a person has severe bi-polar, or schizophrenia, or chronic depression, then a condition doesn't exist. It's almost an 'all or nothing' attitude

    Nobody dismisses a broken arm because they can still function, yet if somebody has mild depression they should just 'get on with it'

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    @317 - This will only result in appeals.Atos will not be able to recruit hundreds of psychologists/psychiatrists to undertake such assessment - opening the door for people to send their assessments to appeal - causing more grief, anxiety and costs. The DWP/DoH would be better to spend that money on integrated care and ensure mental health services are increased.

  • Comment number 332.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    257.Ex Tory Voter "And private is better?
    Winterbourne View
    My experience of NHS mental health services is that they did very well - until the cuts."
    Clearly you have very limited experience of NHS inpatient care. Good staff are afraid to whistleblow. Widen access to NHS psychiatry? No, Improve it b4 inflicting it on more patients.

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    6 Minutes ago

    Jesus is the answer. Atheism is sad.


    As stated by someone who believes in something that you cannot measure. That has no reference point and cannot be proved. In something that has caused a lot of misery and suffering. In something that does not acknowledge people of other races as equals. A believer of Fantasy and division.

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    Millibrain jumping on another bandwaggon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    It's a shame that Jeremy Clarkson is still being flaunted as a symbol of hate towards anyone. He's not a politician. He's not an adviser. He doesn't abuse disabled people. He even said he sympathised with those who felt suicidal. And yet, he's portrayed as someone to whom his rather cynical archetype is intended to hurt people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    You have to love Ed Silliband.
    He reminds me of the band on the Titanic!
    We all know were sinking but he keeps singing happy songs!
    I think this story is c;loser to home for Ed than we would believe!

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    I just done a NVQ 2 on mental health, I came to a conclustion that if you cannot cope in the society that you live in, your mental? If you live in USSR then you could be mental if you were a capaltalist? equally Britain today has a religion based upon the Bible, yet they drug people who hear voices. what is prophesying? Revelation 19/10. Society needs to understand itself first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    "294.Eddy from Waring
    .......If I choose to use severe, prolonged, debilitating unhappiness (as it eminently can be) to mean the same as what a doctor would call depression...."

    So yet again you define depression as unhappiness which proves you do not understand the illness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    Two years ago, I had to leave work as a senior electronics engineer; over-work and stress led to a breakdown. I do not feel that my GP takes me seriously and that I am making it all up. After several pointless visits I simply exist day to day. I could be and want to be a productive member of society again, I simply don't know where to turn for help, as everything needs to go through my GP..

  • Comment number 323.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    Like many I suffer from severe depression, and also PTSD. Its severity varies but still affects everything in my life.Most of my health care has been private so I have had access to excellent but expensive mental health care. It has kept me alive and provides me with some quality of life. Better NHS treatment (immediately available) & workplace changes to eliminate uneccessary stress; essential.

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    It's disappointing to see those who rightly point to our competitive, materialistic, selfish society as a factor being voted down. It's been repeatedly proven that societies that value people for who they are rather than how they look or how much they own have lower rates of stress and depression. Most people do not thrive on the immense pressure and constant hostilty encouraged by modern society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    Has this guy run out of anything else to say that will attract our attention. This scenario has being going-on, and, on for decades and still nothing gets done. It is a governmant pre-election scam that now fails to alter peoples opinions about pathetic governorship.

  • Comment number 319.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    This shows how 2 faced the left wing are on ere. When victims of crime are mentally wrecked from being mugged, house robbed, attacked or children killed you hear nothing but suppot for the criminals and don't send them to jail, let them out early, be nice to them. (rioters and anders breivik) HYS perfect example.

    Now the moment Labour start caring about mental health the left start supporting it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    Someone tell the Government about mental health; they don't know.

    Next year they are going to start crushing what little help (obtained by a huge struggle) they give to people with mental health problems when they force them to re-apply for their Disabled Living Allowance. You can be certain that they will decide that most people with mental health disabilities are in fact perfectly well.


Page 14 of 30


More Politics stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.