Spotting Invisible Wounds

‘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.

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.

The Vital Work of Women’s Refuge

Michael has praised the ‘vital’ work of staff at a local Women’s Refuge.

The refuge, based at a secret location in West Kent, accommodates women and their children who have experienced domestic abuse.  For these families, the seven-room refuge is their only safe space.  Run by Look Ahead Care Support and Housing and managed by Yvette Hazeldon, the refuge provides families the time and security needed to reintegrate into society.

During his visit, Ms Hazeldon briefed Michael about the high demand for accommodation in the refuge, adding that the nature of the demand has changed because social media enables perpetrators to locate victims more easily.s Refuge 22 Sept 17

They reviewed the Government’s work to help victims of domestic abuse.  Despite record numbers of prosecutions and convictions since 2010, there are still two million victims of domestic abuse every year in England and Wales.

Michael told Ms Hazeldon that the Government will introduce a Draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill to bring to the justice system greater clarity about the impact of domestic abuse on families and encourage better response to the lifelong impact on children into adulthood.

He said: ‘My office regularly deals with cases involving domestic abuse.  This refuge provides a vital service in keeping families safe.  We will work together to ensure the Government are taking the right steps to support victims.’

Michael Time Travels for 100th Anniversary

Michael visited the Leonard Cheshire Disability care home in Chipstead last week to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of its founder’s birth.

Leonard Cheshire Disability is a major health and welfare charity working in the UK and around the world. It was founded in 1948 by RAF pilot Leonard Cheshire and works to move disabled individuals toward independent living.

Michael met Kevin Parkes, Service Manager, and Deputy Managers, Anne-Marie Pert and Shelley Conneely, who introduced him to the care home’s oldest resident. Staff were dressed in early 20th century attire in honour of the centenary and there were tea-dancers performing to live music.

‘This is a great example of what can be achieved through community effort’, Michael said. ‘The charity’s projects support the Government’s wider efforts to get more disabled people into employment. Together we will work to finally close the disability gap.’

Michael Officially Opens Andrews Court

Michael recently officially opened Andrews Court, a new development of affordable rented apartments for the over 55s in Swanley.  New residents joined Moat representatives, local councillors and officers from Sevenoaks District Council for the celebrations.
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Michael addresses the staff and residents.
Delivered by Moat in partnership with Sevenoaks District Council, the Homes and Communities Agency and developer Jenner, Andrews Court is a redevelopment of the old St Andrews Court. The scheme includes larger dwellings, which allow easier access for people who may have wheelchairs or walking frames,  incorporating aspects of Dementia-friendly design – such as different coloured doors and carpets on each floor.
Michael said: ‘What’s important here is partnership; with Sevenoaks District Council and the Government.  These things don’t just happen.  They happen when there is genuine partnership involved.  This redevelopment is vital for the community because it is affordable and designed to ensure residents have the dignity of independence.
The residents here want to be looked after later in life, but they also want to be able to look after themselves.  For all these reasons, I’m delighted to be here to open Andrews Court.  I look forward to more of these developments coming forward here in Sevenoaks.’