I had the honour of addressing the Labour Party conference as the first ever Shadow Minister for Mental Health. I’ve been asked to widely circulate the speech I gave to underline that Labour is providing the political leadership at the highest level to make our mental health services world class. It is reprinted below, alongside a montage of photographs from the visits, meetings and events that I undertook during the week. You can also watch my speech and that of Shadow Secretary of State for Health Heidi Alexander by clicking here.
We rely on the NHS, we campaign for the NHS, we are the party of the NHS.
All of us will fight to our dying breath to defend the NHS, and the simple Labour values which underpin it.
I would like to thank Nottingham South CLP in particular for their motion which raised mental health and the impact of Government cuts on mental health services.
Mental health has come out of the shadows in recent years. Many people, including Jo Brand, Stephen Fry, Alistair Campbell and some of our parliamentary colleagues, have had the courage to speak out about their own mental health.
Slowly the taboo is being broken.
But ask anyone with a mental illness, and they’ll tell you that they still face stigma, discrimination and prejudice.
One in four of us will have a mental illness at some point in our lives. Yet tens of thousands receive the wrong treatment or do not get any, help, at all. Isn’t it shameful that those hit hardest are children and young people?
Conference, it is a national scandal that the biggest killer of men aged 15-49 in our country is suicide.
Yet David Cameron and his ministers, despite their fine words about ‘parity of esteem’ between mental and physical health, are presiding over a service, in crisis. People with mental illness are waiting months and months just to get an appointment, or are having to travel hundreds of miles for a bed. Instead of getting the decent, local, NHS care they need and deserve.
Care, like that which is provided by the amazing team at Mill View Hospital here in Brighton, which I had the privilege of visiting this morning.
The Labour Party is putting mental health centre stage.
I stand before you today as the first ever Shadow Minister for Mental Health.
This role that Jeremy has created is not just confined to the NHS.
We know that mental health is a cross-cutting issue. It needs a cross-cutting response in our communities, in our schools and our workplaces.
For the young girl with an eating disorder.
For the pensioner suffering from loneliness.
For the veteran affected from post-traumatic stress.
I’m keen to work with patients, health professionals, campaigners, councillors, and trade unionists to do two things.
One – to hold this Tory Government to account for their broken promises on mental health.
And two, to develop a world-class mental health programme to be implemented by the next Labour Government.
Let’s join together in this fight.