The kind of society we want and need
If one certainty has come out of the Coronavirus crisis, it is that our mental health is just as important as our physical health and these two parts of ourselves are linked in subtle, important ways. So, it is clear we need properly connected systems in place that reflect this fact across our workplaces; our health and education systems; and our community services. Indeed, every facet of life which impacts on our health and wellbeing. It is quite apt then that the London Mayoral election is next week with people going to the polls on Thursday, 6 May.
Mind in London, a partnership of 18 local Mind associations in the capital including Richmond Borough Mind, have created a manifesto, Protecting the mental health of Londoners, detailing what we want the new Mayor to do. We realise that mental health is complex and manifold: there are a great number of factors that contribute to the quality of our mental wellbeing. To this end we have divided what we would like the new Mayor to do into five priority areas.
Under the first four priorities below we have quoted a policy commitment from one of the leading candidates in the election. The fifth priority concerns reforming the Mental Health Act.
1. What we want: Protect Londoners from financial stress
What they say:
‘As Mayor, I will tackle London’s problems by generating 924,000 jobs over five years and investing in more affordable housing, better transport infrastructure and new training opportunities. This will help our city recover from the pandemic and create a fairer, more equal economy.’
from My Plan to Give London a Fresh Start, the manifesto of Shaun Bailey, Conservative Party
2. What we want: Protect those Londoners that suffer from inequalities due to poverty and ethnicity
What they say:
‘I want it to be easier to access NHS mental health services, and I’ll work with London’s NHS to put in place a simple and single point of access for self-referrals for mental health support and counselling. I also recognise that there is a higher prevalence of mental health issues in Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and amongst LGBTQ+ Londoners and I’m determined to do what I can to help improve the mental health of all Londoners.’
from For London, the manifesto of Sadiq Khan, Labour Party
3. What we want: Protect the mental health of children and young people
What they say:
‘The Liberal Democrats will establish a London Youth Service to help coordinate and improve access to activities for young people after school. The London Youth Service will work borough-by-borough to unite community halls, faith groups, sports clubs, night clubs, libraries, empty shops on high streets, theatres, businesses, as well as schools themselves, under one umbrella to provide a comprehensive programme of after-school activities.’
from Take London Forward, the manifesto of Luisa Porritt, Liberal Democrat Party
4. What we want: Invest in appropriate community services
What they say:
‘A Green Mayor will work for parity of esteem for mental health with physical health. Creating the conditions for wellbeing and resilience to help to prevent distress in the short and long term, both reducing suffering and saving resources.’
from A New Start for London, the manifesto of Sian Berry, Green Party
5. What we want: Reform the Mental Health Act
The pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for reform of the Mental Health Act. Many mental health hospitals were ill-equipped to control the spread of the virus and this, combined with staff sickness and absence, left those detained under the Act far more exposed to Covid-19 than the wider population. Right now, thousands of people are still subjected to poor, sometimes appalling, treatment, and many will live with the consequences far into the future. The public consultation on the Mental Health Act review is now closed; and we want the new Mayor to engage with government, local authorities and community groups to fully implement its recommendations.
Parity between the mental and the physical
The collective admiration for our health workers over the past year has not only been for their ability to perform their roles, but also for the mental energy they have poured into them as well. Coping with the emotional challenge of dealing with so many very ill people is perceived by most as praiseworthy as being able to work a ventilator. Inherent in this is an understanding of how mental health affects physical health and vice versa. It is surely time for this understanding to be extended to how we view society as a whole; and as a result, the long-sought parity between mental health and physical health can move a step closer.
Whoever is elected the new London Mayor next Thursday, we will be checking to see if they honour their commitments. Watch this space.
You can read our manifesto, Protecting the mental health of Londoners, here: https://www.mind.org.uk/media/7191/mind-in-london-manifesto.pdf