There has been a history of poorly funded and executed mental health treatment available in Britain. During a speech at the Charity Commission for England and Wales on 9 January, Theresa May slandered this “inadequate treatment” and stigma surrounding mental health.
Civil society groups and charities previously having been the only people advocating for those with mental illnesses, the Prime Minister promised to “employ the power of government” and pledged more mental health funding in schools and the workplace. The social and economic costs of mental illness equate to roughly the same amount spent on the NHS in its entirety- £105 billion. Having pledged investment of £67.7million into digital mental health services alone, May is yet to specify where this funding will come from and health professionals have warned that without financial backing, these promises are empty.
With the aim of ensuring that no child is sent away from their local area to be treated for a general mental health condition by 2021, May plans to trial new approaches to improve the relationship and interactions between schools and local NHS services and provide a mental health service for children and young people. The PM also plans to pilot new ideas to “deal with mental health problems at every stage of a person’s life”, such as offering mental health training to teachers and employers to better identify mental health issues at an earlier stage.
While it is no new tune for a politician to sing promises of mental health reforms, May’s proposition to refocus on young people, “ensuring that children and teenagers get the help and support they need and deserve” is a step in the right direction.
The growing generational divide and tensions due to Brexit and the uneven distribution of wealth to baby boomers, leading to “a more prosperous older generation and a struggling younger generation”, puts a strain on the youth of the country. A survey released by The Prince’s Trust in 2017 found that 28% of young people feel they lack control of their own lives and that the current political climate has led to a surge in their anxiety of the future. Combined with feelings of self-doubt, job insecurity and the rising cost of living, 34% of those surveyed think they will have a worse standard of life than their parents, becoming the first generation to ever do so. The elevated levels of stress youth will feel from having to bear the brunt of the choices made by older generations will surely lead to a rise in mental health problems in the future, making the Prime Minister’s pledges vital for the wellbeing of the future leaders and the country.
In a world of Brexit and President Trump, it is no surprise that mental health rates among young people are on the rise. Should May’s reforms come into action in preparation for the hardships ahead, the treatment of mental illnesses will not only help those who need it but will hopefully lead to a better, more tolerant shared society that, as May put it, “focuses rather more on responsibilities we have to one another”.