A bold ambition of the Government is to ensure that mental health is given parity with physical health. One in four adults are diagnosed with a mental health problem, and in recent years more initiatives have been established to promote mental wellbeing. Two weeks ago universities across the country including Chichester marked #UniMentalHealthDay. The day was designed to encourage students to talk openly about mental health and to highlight support services on offer. Chichester University already has registered in-house mental health professionals and its own Time to Change Charter, which aims to promote a greater understanding of mental illnesses across its campuses. The Government is due to release its own University Mental Health Charter shortly, to make sure all universities offer greater mental health support to students and staff. These are important initiatives, as only by talking about mental health can services be shaped to meet peoples’ needs.
On Sunday I joined Chichester’s second ‘Mental Health Mates’ walk around the city walls. I was invited by Lizzie Speller, a truly inspiring local ambassador for Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity. I first met Lizzie in Parliament where she shared her experience with an eating disorder, which affects roughly 1.25 million people around the country. Research has shown people wait on average three-and-a-half years before getting support for their eating disorder. Mental illnesses can be fatal, and anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. That’s why events like Sunday’s walk are so important as a way to bring people together and talk openly about their experiences without fear. We need to be able to talk about mental health without judgment, so more people get help and get it sooner.
Last year I visited Chapel Street Clinic to find out more about local services offered to people who need help and support with mental health issues. Whilst there I met a team of professionals who help carry out a range of assessments and psychiatric treatments. As more people seek mental health support we need to ensure we have the right resources available, and is why West Sussex is currently undergoing a redesign of its mental health services. Bringing together NHS England, Hospital Trusts and our CCGs, they aim to make sure local mental health services have the capacity to cope with rising demand. Details about the restructure are due to be published in the coming months, with a full public consultation later this year.
Anybody wanting to join the next Mental Health Mates walk should follow @findyourwe on twitter for dates and information.