PRIME MINISTER Theresa May has announced a policy decision to give more priority to treating mental illness. As her announcement contained virtually no extra funding, it constitutes little more than wishful thinking.
May made her announcement at an event held at the Charity Commission after government figures suggested that one in four adults has a mental illness, costing over £100 billion each year in treatment and losses to the economy. Of particular concern to the Government are figures revealing that young people are disproportionately affected by mental illness, with young women most at risk. In response, May promised to “transform” attitudes to mental illness. Attitudes, of course, cost nothing. Treatment, support and change will cost a great deal more.
May has promised that teachers will receive extra training in recognising mental health needs of young people at school. Just £15 million will be made available for extra community care: this after a number of well publicised cases where young people at risk of harm have been accommodated on a temporary basis in quite unsuitable places, such as police stations, because all suitable facilities within miles were full. There will be a further £67.7 million spent on online services, which is welcome but almost useless in the absence of proper treatment facilities.
We can expect more policies to be outlined in a Government Green Paper later this year. In the meantime, local authorities and NHS facilities, already stretched to breaking point, struggle to cope from day to day and waiting lists for mental health support are stretching to unreasonable length.