By Danny Bowman
As many of you know March is Parliament Street’s mental health month focusing on every aspect of the subject. With all that said Parliament Street decided to host one event that turned into two events due to the large amount of interest in the topic. We held both events at the Houses of Parliament with two days of debating the catalogue of issues facing people suffering from mental illness but also discussing how to forge a 21st century approach to mental health and modernise current provision.
The first evening saw a fantastic panel come together including Liz Fraser; a presenter, columnist and Director of Headcase, a website and app aiming to demystify and modernise mental health provision. We had Norman Lamb MP; Mr Lamb who is currently the Liberal Democrats Spokesperson (Health) and Member of Parliament for North Norfolk who has been one of the most boisterous MP’s on mental health holding the government to account on policy that affects mental health sufferers. We were joined by Jonny Benjamin OBE; Jonny is a well-known mental health campaigner, author and vlongger famous for his Find ‘Mike’ campaign aiming to find the stranger who stopped him from taking his own life in 2008. The final panellist was Obsessional Compulsive Disorder (OCD) campaigner and founder of ASKASHOCD who has spoken openly about his struggles with the illness.
The discussion began with me asking the esteemed panel if they thought traditional psychology and psychiatry had passed its cell by date. We had a mixed reaction with Liz Fraser arguing that although Psychology and Psychiatry had a place in a modern approach she believed we needed to look at other ways to deal with mental health issues including apps. Ashley Curry conveyed that he felt the extraordinary work that psychologists and psychiatrists do should not be forgotten and that should be a good enough argument to keep them as part of a modernised approach.
The second question was rather more political asking the panel if they thought the government was doing enough to support people who suffer from mental health issues. The response saw the majority of panellists choosing a very diplomatic approach whilst Jonny and Ash outlining the key failures of the current government specifically focusing on the “harsh” cuts to mental health services.
My favourite question and arguably the hardest question for the panellists to answer focused on what they thought mental health would look like in 10 years’ time. Liz Fraser thought that there would be more people getting treated online modernising our approach to mental health saying “we need to make this issue sexy” which she believed would demystify mental health issues once and for all. Ash focussed on OCD specifically saying that 2/3% of the population suffer from OCD stressing the importance of early intervention and the reduction of stigma and discrimination.
The first debate of Parliament Street’s mental health month was well attended and the panellists delivered some very insightful and emotive answers to the vast array of questions.
I would like to thank all of the panellists and audience who attended the first event and Parliament Street looks forward to your attendance in the future.
Danny Bowman is Parliament Street’s mental health spokesman.