‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’
A saying that dates back to 1862, passed down through the generations; it embodies those British stereotypes of supressing emotions and stiffening the upper-lip.
Yet old adages contain old ideas, and such sayings standardise a stigma that we now need to move beyond: how we speak about mental health problems.
World Mental Health Day on Tuesday reminded us that 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 children are affected by mental illnesses. The majority do not speak up and do not seek help.
By changing the way we discuss mental illnesses, we can start to provide people the support they need.
That’s why I am proud of this Government’s record investment in mental healthcare; mental and physical health now have parity in law.
Last week, the Prime Minister announced a review of the Mental Health Act to tackle longstanding injustices in our mental health system. It’s about helping some of the most vulnerable in society.
It’s also about relieving our straining public services. The NHS’s challenge with mental illnesses is marked by a 43 per cent increase in detainments within the past decade alone. Around 40 per cent of police business in Kent is concerned with mental health problems.
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To deal with this, we’ve increased the number of psychiatric consultants and we’ve taken steps to ensure that many thousands more young people will receive the right treatment at the right time by 2020.
Compared to 2010, 40 per cent more people access mental health services every day. The number of mental health patients being held inappropriately in police cells is also down by 80 per cent over the same period.
We’re lucky that West Kent MIND, which has provided vital support for years, is based in Sevenoaks. On Tuesday, they held training sessions for schools and businesses to facilitate workplace wellbeing. On Sunday, they’ll host a fun run in Knole Park to raise further awareness.
Tomorrow, I will visit Sevenoaks Hospital to open the new Wound Centre. But I will remember those wounds that are often just as serious: the ones we cannot see.