Thursday 16th March 2017 – A 21st century approach to mental health – part 2

By Danny Bowman

After the success of the first event it was now time for the main event in the House of Commons with a sell-out audience of 200 people in attendance and an esteemed panel including the Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent, Matthew Scott; Leading psychologist and author, Rob Wilson; Director of Time to Change, Sue Baker and award-winning mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin OBE we were ready to begin.

The first question was the same as the night before asking the panellists if they thought modern psychology and Psychiatry had passed its sell by date. Interestingly Rob Wilson, a psychologist himself answered with no hesitation “yes” adding that we needed to look at new innovative ways to deal with mental health. Sue Baker stressed the important role campaigns such as Time to Change play in helping people and how it is important that more people speak out about their mental health in the future.

The next question focussed on the emergency services approach to dealing with the mental health crisis with Police and Crime Commissioner talking about the strides Kent Police have made in improving support for mental health sufferers and the systems in place to get sufferers to the right place but also conveying that because of the lack of resources available to mental health services the “phone is switched off at 5pm.” Jonny Benjamin talked about his negative experience with the police when he was in crisis.

As part of Parliament Street’s mental health campaign which calls for a Minister for Mental Health I asked the panellists if they believed we needed one and if they would back the campaign. Jonny Benjamin straight away responded “yes, of course we do” and conveyed his shock that a minister wasn’t in place already specifically for mental health with leading psychologist and chairman of the BDD Foundation Rob Wilson and PCC for Kent conveying their support for a Minister for Mental Health. Sue Baker of Time to Change disagreed with the proposal due to her not wanting a separation between mental health and the rest of government.

We finished with questions from the audience which eloquently with some audience members outlining their dismay and government cuts with others focusing on the importance of new technologies playing an important role in supporting people with mental health difficulties. Certain audience members bravely talked about their personal journeys through the traumas of mental illness.

I closed the two day event by thanking the incredible panellists and audience members that made this all possible.

Both of the events generated some extremely innovative ideas that could help to provide care and support for people suffering from mental illness. Both events were fuelled with optimism and hope but also drilled home the catalogue of inequalities still faced by individuals suffering from mental illness.

I was proud to chair both events and hear the passion about mental health and I must stress that none of this would have been possible without the tireless work of the Parliament Street team with a special mention to Clare Ambrosino, who made sure the logistics of the event were perfect.

Parliament Street will continue on mental health and will be producing a report due to come out August 2017 with policy recommendations.

Danny Bowman is mental health spokesman for Parliament Street

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