In my maiden speech I highlighted the importance of the NHS and dealing with mental health:
Issues around mental health and emotional wellbeing can make a person feel alone, confused, lonely, hopeless and lost. Such issues are cruel and indiscriminate; they can affect any one of us at any time. My constituency has a high proportion of young people. I have heard about the teenage girl suffering anxiety about her body image after seeing too many photo-shopped images on social media, the middle-aged man suffering from depression so overwhelming that he finds it impossible to make it out of the house in the morning, and the older person living alone, so worried about making ends meet that they cannot sleep at night.
The new “#StatusOfMind” report by the Royal Society for Public Health shows that
“identified rates of anxiety and depression in young people have increased by 70% over the past 25 years.”
That is nearly 80,000 children and young people in the UK suffering from severe depression. The report also states that nearly nine in 10 girls are unhappy with their body shape, that
“Seven in 10 young people have experienced cyberbullying”,
and that no action was taken in 91% of cases in which cyber-bullying was reported.
As a parent of two girls, aged seven and six, this terrifies me. We need to do so much more to stop these trends and to make sure that our children are able to fulfil their potential. We should ensure that schools are given the time, opportunity and resources to make personal, social and health and economic education lessons a priority, not an afterthought, and we should work with social media platforms to identify users who could be suffering from mental health problems and signposting them to help. We need to support families to make sense of heart-breaking issues their children could be facing so that they can build a level of resilience.
For many people suffering with mental health and emotional wellbeing issues, these can both cause and, indeed, be caused by additional issues such as substance and alcohol misuse. The Reach Addiction centre at the Church of the Redeemer in my constituency does amazing work supporting people who, without it, would be completely lost and adrift from society. St. John’s church in Harborne and St. Boniface church in Quinton provide food banks and support to those suffering from homelessness and mental health issues. I recognise the vital support that these faith organisations, along with public sector workers in my constituency, provide. One of Britain’s finest hours was the creation of the NHS and the welfare state in 1946—a safety net for those who fell on hard times. To tackle issues such as alcohol and substance misuse, we need to rethink this safety net to make sure that emotional help and support is there for anyone who needs it, whenever they need it. It is time we treated the cause of these issues, rather than just the symptoms.