Mental Health Community Reacts: The Government Cause Concern

A week ago, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gave a speech that sparked concern over the words he used about mental health. Language can be powerful, particularly when it comes to mental health conditions. During this election year (2024), when party leaders want your votes, mental health has come to the fore in certain political policies. The Conservatives’ recent rhetoric has provoked a strong response from leaders in the charitable sector and health organisations. In a previous article we took a closer look at Rishi Sunak’s speech given on Friday the 19th.th April to separate science from spin. Now, we look at how charities and health leaders have responded.

How have charities, sector leaders and health organizations responded to Mr Sunak’s words?

On BBC Question Time live from Tottenham on April 25, President of the NHS Confederation Baron Victor Adebowale saying “The language we use is reused, even in the question ‘do we have a sick leave culture?’… it’s cruel. {While} 870,000 may be out of work but 2,000,000 people have long had Covid time, a recognized illness,”

Baron Adebowale continued “I have rarely met someone who doesn’t want to work and doesn’t want help being able to work. For every month you are out of work, your mental health deteriorates, measurable mental health scores like anxiety and depression You need help developing the skills , to retain them. And you may return to a different job. When someone says “sick culture” or you need “specialists”, what people get used to thinking is that this does not mean an additional investment in occupational therapists. , that is, someone who works for the DWP or a private company and who is measured by their ability to return a job in exchange for money,”

The president of the NHS Confederation finished the point by focusing on NHS statistics, “Looking at the NHS, my members tell me that 41% of NHS staff feel unwell at some point, 54% went to work feeling unwell, 34% are emotionally exhausted, 30% are exhausted and 57%, However, he thinks the NHS really does a good job. We need to stop using this performative language. Empathy, kindness and understanding {are necessary}.

Andy Bell, executive director of the Center for Mental Health He warned that the Conservatives’ proposed policies would put more people with mental health problems at risk of “benefit sanctions”, and also warned that Sunak’s suggestion to “over-medicalise” could deter people from seeking life-saving support when they do. need.

Dr Sarah Hughes, chief executive of mental health charity Mind expressed his disappointment at the Prime Minister’s speech saying that “It continues a trend in recent rhetoric that evokes the image of a ‘mental health culture’ that has ‘gone too far.’ “This is harmful, inaccurate and contrary to reality for people across the country.”

She said “Insinuating that it is easy to get an approved job and then access benefits is deeply damaging. “It is an insult to the 1.9 million people on the waiting list for mental health support and to GPs whose expert judgment is being questioned.”

James Taylor of disability charity Scope saying, “This seems like an outright attack on disabled people. These proposals are dangerous and risk leaving disabled people destitute. “In a cost of living crisis, seeking to cut disabled people’s incomes by hitting the PIP is a horrible proposition.”

Jen Clark, head of economic and social rights at Amnesty International UK said Mr Sunak’s announcement “It demonizes some of the most vulnerable people in the country…targeting and humiliating people with disabilities because they need financial assistance.”

Ruth Wilkinson, head of policy and public affairs at the Institution for Occupational Safety and Health, focused his response on what the Government could be doing differently, commenting “If the Government is serious about tackling the problem of economic inactivity, it is crucial that it prioritizes investing in workplace health and safety and identifying and addressing the root causes. The main focus must be on prevention, ensuring that work is safe, healthy, supportive and adapts to people’s needs.”

“{Mr Sunak’s speech} is an irresponsible war of words against people who are already not receiving enough support, which the Government would prefer not to talk about..” Iain Porter, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Iain Porter, senior policy adviser at anti-poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation He also echoed Ruth Wilkinson’s suggestion about alternative positions the Government could take, saying “Any sensible aspects of the Government’s previously announced planned reforms, such as a better focus on occupational support, have been overshadowed by damaging rhetoric about which illnesses are genuine or not. “Many people want to work, as the Prime Minister says, but their hopes are dashed by dismal health and wellbeing support and employment hubs that are not fit for purpose.”

“The Prime Minister must know that he cannot scare people into good health,” he said. Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG). “His words will be chilling to low-income families who rely on our social security system for help. “Your government needs to address the reasons people can’t go to work – such as poor health – rather than making life harder for those who are struggling.”

Alison Garnham also suggested where Sunak could invest, saying “The Prime Minister should focus on investment in the NHS, improving employment support and providing social security for all who need it, including the record number of children currently living in poverty.”

“Mr Sunak should look closer at home and at NHS waiting lists.” Ash James, director of practice and development at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, seems to agree with Alison Garnham, adding that “Employers should also do more to make such services available to their staff, given the clear link between productivity and workforce health. But until the Government overcomes NHS waiting times by tackling the serious jobs crisis across a range of professions, including physiotherapy, too many people will remain disillusioned and forced out of work.”

More than 30 mental health organisations, including MQ Mental Health Research, came together last year to call on all political parties to make a commitment to mental health in their election programmes. This was outlined in a report by Mentally Healthier Nation. At MQ, along with the other signatories of this report, we believe that a comprehensive long-term intergovernmental plan is essential to protect and promote mental health as a whole.

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