Mental illness and ill health took centre stage in a series of public health pronouncements from political figures during the autumn.
Most notably, in October Labour leader Ed Miliband unveiled plans to tackle mental illness should the party be elected to power, calling it “the biggest unaddressed health challenge of our time”.
In a speech at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London, Miliband attacked celebrities who poked fun at mental illness, including Jeremy Clarkson and Janet Street-Porter, arguing that such attitudes only reinforced stigma.
“We can’t prevent all mental ill health – there are not cures for all conditions – but we can help change the culture in our country,” he contended.
He also visited the offices of insurer Legal & General to discuss mental health in the workplace, where he argued that mental illness blighted the lives of millions, and cost UK businesses £26 billion and the NHS an extra £10 billion per year.
Miliband argued that patients should have the same legal right to mental health therapies as physical healthcare and said he would set up a taskforce to draw up a strategic plan for mental health in society.
Meanwhile, a recent study by King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry argued that more than three-quarters of people with a mental health condition have experienced some form of discrimination. The study, published online by The Lancet, used detailed questionnaires to ask 1,082 people being treated for depression in 35 different countries about their experiences of discrimination.
More than one-third reported they had been avoided or shunned by other people because of their mental health problems. In addition, anticipated discrimination had prevented more than one-third from initiating a close personal relationship and a quarter had not applied for work at some point because they expected they would be discriminated against.