Influential figures from the worlds of politics and finance have come together on World Mental Health Day to emphasise the importance of tackling the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health issues.
Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and Care and Support Minister, Norman Lamb, joined cross-party MPs and peers in attending a parliamentary event run by mental health anti-stigma programme Time to Change and its partner charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.
Also, the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority have joined more than 100 other organisations, including British Gas, BT, Lloyds Banking Group and Ernst & Young, by signing the Time to Change pledge to stamp out stigma and discrimination in the workplace.
The event, hosted by Kevan Jones MP, who has been open about his own mental ill health, saw MPs committing to address mental health stigma and discrimination and support mental health and wellbeing among their staff. The event also celebrated the significant work Parliament has done in the past 18 months to address stigma and discrimination. This includes the passing of the Mental Health (Discrimination) Act, which abolished archaic laws that discriminate against people with mental ill health, and four MPs disclosing their mental ill health in Parliament for the first time ever last year.
“We have entered a new phase towards ending mental health discrimination,” said Clegg. “There is now much better public awareness of how stigma and ignorance can increase the suffering for people with mental ill health. For a long time, I’ve been clear that mental health should be treated like any other health issue – with dignity and respect. But we must press on to create a fairer society in which nobody is marginalised or suffers in silence. It’s great to see major employers like Bank of England backing the Time to Change anti-stigma campaign, and I hope this creates a groundswell of support for this vital work.”
Lamb added: “I am determined that mental health is treated with as much importance as physical health by the NHS and society as a whole.
“This is why we are investing £454 million into improving access to treatment for people with mental health problems and are working with NHS England to see how long people wait with a view to introducing access standards for mental health. Today, the health regulator the Care Quality Commission [is] announcing that there will be a new deputy chief inspector with expertise in mental health to root out poor care and highlight best practice in the NHS.
“I have asked all government departments to sign the Time to Change organisational pledge to show leadership by example, and I am pleased that, as of today, three have already signed and nine have formally committed to do this. But challenging discrimination and overcoming stigma on mental health is not something which the government alone can achieve. Everyone has a part to play, which is why it is so important that leading employers in the UK follow the Bank of England’s example and sign up to the Time to Change pledge to tackle stigma in the workplace.”
Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, said: “We are seeing unprecedented support from many different industries who now see the importance of tackling mental health stigma and discrimination. Through today’s event we hope to encourage MPs, as small employers in their constituencies, to think about the measures they can put in place to ensure that their workplaces are stigma free. In the last year and a half, we’ve seen huge improvements in the way that mental health is perceived in Parliament and among the public as a whole. But we can’t lose momentum – the events of recent weeks have shown that there is still work to be done and we hope today’s pledges, from individual MPs through to the Bank of England, will help to embed the anti-stigma movement further throughout society.”