Public figures sign letter seeking equality for mental health

More than 200 high-profile public figures have signed an open letter urging the Government increase funding for mental health services.

Danny Boyle, Sir Ian McKellen and Sam Allardyce are along high profile figures to have signed an open letter calling for equality for funding for physical and mental health treatment.

The letter was launched by former mental health minister Norman Lamb, Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell and former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said treatment had made “great strides” but admitted more could be done to improve services.

The government increased overall mental health funding to £11.7bn in 2014/15, but the letter highlights 10 major concerns over what is considered still inadequate mental health care.

Areas of concern include the lack of access to treatment, long waiting times, inadequate crisis care, use of police cells and the 20-year gap in life expectancy between those with mental health problems and the rest of the population.

It also notes the high cost of mental ill health to individuals and their families as well as to the economy as a whole.

Mr Lamb said people with mental ill health “don’t get the same right to access treatment on a timely basis that everyone else gets”. He called it a “historic injustice.” His son was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder at the age of 15.

In the spring, the government pledged an extra £1.25bn largely for children’s mental health over the next five years. It also introduced the first waiting time targets in mental health, guaranteeing treatment within 18 weeks.

But the campaign says not enough has been done to address a continuing inequality in care standards and funding.

Alistair Campbell said: “This is an issue whose time has come. The range of people now giving their active backing to a cause that used to be so taboo nobody would talk about indicates that if we can keep up the momentum, a tipping point can come.”

Film director Danny Boyle said: “For too long mental health and mental illness have been surrounded by stigma and taboo and I will support anything that strips that away.

“There cannot be anyone alive who doesn’t know someone who has some kind of mental illness and yet it does not get the same understanding or support as physical illness. That is an injustice that harms so many lives.”

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