This week is Mental Health Awareness Week – an opportunity to raise awareness of mental health and to share the support and information available with anyone who needs it.
Mental health problems can affect any of us, at any point in our lives. Fortunately, through more open and frank testimony from many brave people who have suffered from mental health issues, the stigma that once surrounded mental health is being dispelled – and more people are seeking help.
This Mental Health Awareness Week coincides with the launch of Shout, a new 24/7 text service for anyone in crisis, which has been supported by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Shout uses specially trained volunteers to help in a personal crisis, such as suicidal thoughts, abuse or assault, self-harm, bullying, or relationship challenges. Anonymised data is also used to give unique insights into mental health trends, to help improve help available.
Texting is free and anonymous, though if there is an immediate risk of harm crisis volunteers may share information with relevant authorities who can provide support. Anyone in need of support should text Shout to 85258.
For more general personal support, or for information on how you can support a family member or friend, the mental health charity Mind have useful information on their website www.mind.org.uk. This includes information on different mental health issues, and advice on how to seek different types of treatment and therapies.
As awareness of mental health has grown, so too has the focus on treatment within the NHS. England is on the road to parity of esteem with physical health, but there is still more to do, especially here in Shropshire. It is welcome that, as part of the five-year funding settlement that will see the NHS budget grow by over £20.5 billion a year, mental health services will receive an additional £2.3 billion per year – enabling service expansion and faster access to mental health services for both adults and children.
I want to see a fair share of this funding available to improve services in Shropshire, where our services are amongst the least well-funded in England. After successfully rebuilding the Redwoods Centre for residential care in Shrewsbury some years ago, I am calling on the Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to focus on improving mental health care in our community.