Voting for mental health

In this post I underestimated the number of charities which specifically fund mental health research. Last week Hugh McKenna sent a message to members of Mental Health Nurse Academics UK alerting us to the Alliance of Mental Health Research Funders, and particularly to this group’s Prioritising Mental Health Research manifesto produced ahead of next year’s general election.

I count 13 members of the Alliance, and read this from the about section of the organisation’s website:

We are a group of charities and foundations that support mental health research. We meet regularly to share progress and generate new ideas for improving mental health research in the UK. We believe that more and better research is urgently needed to find ways of promoting good mental health, treating mental health problems, and supporting the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities. Research can help people with mental health problems, and those around them such as family members or friends, practitioners and leaders of organisations, to find solutions so individuals can enjoy better health and longer, more fulfilling lives.

In its 2015 manifesto the AMHRF says:

We all know someone with a mental health problem and can see how lives would be improved with better treatments and support and less stigma. Mental health research saves lives, relieves significant distress
and improves quality of life. It also benefits the whole of our society by generating social and economic benefits that contribute to thriving communities built upon resilience, reduced levels of mental ill-health and less stigma and discrimination.

Yet mental health research is underfunded and under-prioritised by government. We are missing opportunities to achieve breakthroughs seen in other areas of healthcare that could transform people’s lives and enhance wellbeing.

The 2015 General Election is a landmark opportunity for political parties to build on growing public awareness of mental health and the value of all health and social care research.

The Alliance is right about a growing public awareness of mental health issues, and its message on underfunding is an important one which deserves to be heeded. The LibDems have promised to include a commitment to increasing mental health research in their 2015 manifesto, and other parties (including those with a chance of forming a government) might consider following suit. Personally I would like to see this wrapped up in a more overarching promise to invest properly in mental health across the board, including in services. Elsewhere this week announcements have been made of extra funds to reduce waiting times for mental health care in England. This is a good thing, but needs to be seen in the context of persistent cuts to the mental health system over the lifetime of this government which have  had serious implications for people left in need.

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