Mental illness 'biggest UK health challenge' - Miliband


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

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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."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 596.

    Politicians can't work miracles and I'm afraid as I've said to the bloke in the Job Centre many times. If I was an employer I wouldn't employ myself. There are loads of unemployed people with no record of anything wrong at all, so why would they choose people who get depressed (or any othe rform of mental illness?). Liklihood is were all going to stay unemployed, so you might aswell dowhat youlike

  • rate this

    Comment number 595.

    In my lifetime it has been proven to me that cannabis use contributes to detrimental medium term and slight long term alterations in emotional response.
    The key point here is 'contributes'.
    Most people do not have a time of stress that equates to the revelation of the damage it has done, even then they fail to connect those dots. Scientifically difficult to prove without clones, in.. no doubt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.

    I'm afraid another blank cheque is being written by Labour.
    Yes Mental Health is an enormous issue, and I doubt if anyone can say with any certainty that they are mentally healthy. We are all irrational, but I have to say that some mental health problems are excellent excuses. And it naive to believe that people won't play a mental health card and we have not got the tools to detect fraud.

  • rate this

    Comment number 593.

    Looks like you've all gone to sleep. Mr Milliband, if you are listening, please get Mental Health Parity passed in the UK. It should have cross-party support.

    You have a chance to make a very real "quick win" here. If the American Democrats can do it, then so can you. I have enough problems without dealing with ATOS etc for a benefit which isn't a living. Please, you would be remembered well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 592.

    We all know how difficult it is for MHperson change their habits . Rehabilitated will get back into the 'circle'. This is destruction of many years of Welfare State.'Conservative' when they like then."One in four of us will have a mental illness at some point in our lifetime" You Got the point Mr Miliband, here when people starts to go nuts

  • rate this

    Comment number 591.

    Mental health issues are often long term and for some, intractable, and politicians can't work miracles. But now a senior politician is paying attention, let's get him to do something which would actually help.

    Tories would like it because it saves public money.
    Labour because some would no longer be in poverty.
    The Lib Dems would just think it's groovy anyway.

    Mental Health Parity, Mr Milliband

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    This sufferer of bipolar disorder seeks to stigmatize politicians of any hue who make rousing speeches but follow these up with inadequate or no action.... If I do not stigmatize you, Miliband, the mental health user movement WILL, if you do not do enough...

  • rate this

    Comment number 589.

    Thing is in my case not dealing with the depression properly has cost loads and loads more money than dealing with it properly (I find in life I'm not very important, and there are always people who help before me - been this way last 20 years). Now most of my life has gone, despite being hard working and very high levels of ability there is nothing no I can do, so will continue to need benefits!

  • Comment number 588.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 587.

    cut the public services it means that the workers will have more cases to dealing with and they will definitely have a burn out. Charities and Public services, are pointing on volunteer (with NO experience)because they do not have to pay them, but what about the quality of the service? Also those people have to live too and instead they have to offer their time, get stressed and struggling

  • rate this

    Comment number 586.

    Tomorrow I have the regular fandango with ATOS to look forward to. Their last assessment took 8 months to wait for a tribunal, and living on £50 a week (repayable if the tribunal went against me) til then.

    If you pay for health insurance you should be paid when you really need it, shouldn't you?

    One govt has addressed this, the Obama govt. Let's have it here Mr Millband. Mental Health Parity.

  • Comment number 585.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 584.

    The worst prejudice I have encountered came from a Gay man, who told me all the people he had known with depression were all a pain in the xxxx and putting it on. I pointed out to him that prejudice means pre-judging people and not in fact as is commonly thought being nasty to certain groups of people (it is that kind of prejudice that really is the problem - all assumed to be exactly the same).

  • rate this

    Comment number 583.

    Problem is many people think they are depressed but aren't, they are unhappy. Limited funds/GP time is wasted on them. This prevents the sufferers of true clinical depression getting the most appropriate treatment.

    This is s classic problem of the NHS - the woried well wasting time and resources because it is free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 582.

    It is certainly nothing to do with health to be adjusted mentally to any form of system, have you not been listening to the actual truth?...
    Many do as they do until they break for numerous possible reasons, including environmental poisoning, mercury still exists in the world, do you know your kids have not touched it?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 581.

    Ignorant we are not but we foot a bill for so many wastes of total space under the guise of mental health that seriously something needs a large cutback and this should be it because frankly it dosen't help the uk economically to help these people anyway so why don't they pay for it themselves so the money can be diverted to better causes which benefit the economy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 580.

    Hi, Id say anything that entails admittance as a psychiatric emergency counts as serious. Add to that financial stress, and life becomes difficult. I understand how servicemen become ill, I am not surprised at it. At least you have a charity on your side. I have my family and friends, thankfully.

    If insurance companies would pay out as they do for other illnesses it would help. Why not?

  • Comment number 579.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 578.

    The military brass don't care about PTSD, they washed their hands of me after demobilization, the NHS picked up the mess I had became,and got me back on track. My councilor told me this was common.It was under a labour gov Mr.Milliband at the time. So put your money where your mouth is all politicians. We are all in it together, unless you are sick, old, poor and not educated at Eton/Harrow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 577.

    Its good to hear mental health being discussed and brought into the public domain. I just hope this is meaningful and not just something to get peoples attention for ulterior motives like ones own vanity to promote your party.


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