‘Parity of esteem’ – a society free from stigma and discrimination

Guest Blog from the Mental Health Foundation

The Select Committee on Health’s enquiry into children and young people’s mental health and the launch of the NHS England Mental Health Task Force are welcome developments in a year that has seen the issue take centre stage.  It is vital that we achieve parity of esteem for mental  health with physical health.  At the moment, mental health problems account for 23% of the disease ‘burden’ but only receive 13% of NHS funding. We also need to apply this to preventative measures as well as services for those who have developed serious mental health problems.

We are working for an end to mental ill health and the inequalities that face people experiencing mental health problems.

We develop and run research and delivery programmes across the UK that have, for more than six decades, given us the evidence and expertise to know what works and how to intervene earlier. And, importantly strategies to prevent mental ill health and maintain good mental health. We use what we learn to help everyone by offering straightforward and clear information on every aspect of mental health.

Our advice also helps people help the people they care about too – in their families, their communities or their work. We influence policymakers and advocate for changes in services, using firm evidence and the voices of people with direct experience of the issues.

We are prepared to “speak truth to power” and to campaign on the issues that affect public mental health and wellbeing and the lives of people who have, or are close to someone with a learning disability. We aim to inspire the development of a society free from stigma and discrimination, where everyone can achieve their potential to flourish and thrive.

Expanding our role

We expanded our work as an information provider and campaigning organisation in the last decades of the 20th Century. We promote the idea that good mental health and wellbeing is for everyone and not just those experiencing problems.

We have continued to work at the forefront of mental health, often focusing on overlooked and under-researched areas such as personality disorders and mental health issues that affect black and minority ethnic people.

Our public mental health campaigns on topics such as exercise and depression, diet, smoking, alcohol and friendship have raised awareness of their contribution to mental health and helped to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

Mental Health Awareness Week

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week 11-17 May,  focuses on mindfulness. Sometimes thought to be a fad or something for ‘hippies’  mindfulness is integrative, mind-body based training that enables people to change the way they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful experiences. Mindfulness pays attention to thoughts, feelings and body sensations to become directly aware of them. Mindfulness is the ability to be in the present moment – it’s about observing our thoughts, but not getting caught up in them.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 22.10.25Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) has a strong body of evidence which supports its effectiveness and is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for the prevention of relapse in the ‘watchful waiting’ period i,e. for those that have been clinically depressed three or more times. More recently research by the Oxford Mindfulness Centre featured in the Lancet referenced proven trails where relapse was prevented through the practice of mindfulness.

There will be over 300 local supporter events happening throughout the UK in workplaces, homes, parks and schools during Mental Health Awareness Week.  For a free supporter kit, please contact publications@mentalhealth.org.uk.  To see our relaunched and refreshed online mindfulness course go to www.bemindful.co.uk from 11 May.

About the Mental Health Foundation

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 22.08.40The Mental Health Foundation is in its 65th year:  in 1949, Dr Derek Richter, a neurochemist with a particular interest in mental health, vented his frustration at the scarcity of funding for the field. “I am getting tired of this perpetual fight to get small sums for research,” he wrote, “when our colleagues working on cancer and TB are almost embarrassed by the money being thrust at them.” Richter, director of research at the Whitchurch hospital in Cardiff, had an idea to make a difference. “Obviously,” he declared, “there should be a Mental Health Research Fund.”

About Julia Manning

Julia is a social pioneer, writer and campaigner. She studied visual science at City University and became a member of the College of Optometrists in 1991, later specialising in visual impairment and diabetes. During her career in optometry, she lectured at City University, was a visiting clinician at the Royal Free Hospital and worked with Primary Care Trusts. She ran a domiciliary practice across south London and was a Director of the UK Institute of Optometry. Julia formed 20/20Health in 2006. Becoming an expert in digital health solutions, she led on the NHS–USA Veterans’ Health Digital Health Exchange Programme and was co-founder of the Health Tech and You Awards with Axa PPP and the Design Museum. Her research interests are now in harnessing digital to improve personal health, and she is a PhD candidate in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) at UCL. She is also dedicated to creating a sustainable Whole School Wellbeing Community model for schools that builds relationships, discovers assets and develops life skills. She is a member of the Royal Society of Medicine’s Digital Health Council. Julia has shared 2020health's research widely in the media (BBC News, ITV, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions & Victoria Derbyshire, BBC Radio 4 Today, PM and Woman's Hour, LBC) and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week.
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