One of my most important jobs as your MP is to keep in contact with all the organisations that provide the huge range of public services across the constituency.
For many years Mental Health Support in Hambleton and Richmondshire did an excellent job supporting those with mental health issues and I visited the organisation’s base in Northallerton a couple of years ago to see the great work they were doing.
Since then, Darlington Mind has won a long-term contract to provide those services and the organisations have merged. I recently paid a return visit to the centre in Crosby Road to see how the service – called Mind Matters - is going, meeting staff, volunteers and clients.
My visit was a reminder about the importance of prevention in mental health. The centre’s clients I spoke to were well – but the problem they all faced to one degree or another was loneliness.
It is an issue that I have worked on as a member of the Prime Minister’s Inter-Ministerial group on combatting loneliness – the very first such initiative by a government anywhere.
Loneliness can so often develop into a serious mental health issue and early intervention pays dividends. It’s something that is particularly important in rural areas like ours where social isolation is an unfortunate fact of life.
The Northallerton-based team are tackling this and other mental health matters in a variety of ways, with drop-in sessions like the one I spent time with but also through arts and craft, creative writing, and relaxation sessions. One-to-one counselling is also available.
Most importantly, the Mind Matters project has an outreach service which provides help in all the main centres of population in the area – from Reeth to Stokesley and from Bedale to Richmond and Catterick Garrison.
I learnt about this excellent work and the increasing demand for such services after hearing the Health Secretary Matt Hancock recently outline in the House the progress being made on implementing the NHS Long Term Plan – that’s the additional £33.9 billion cash funding increase by 2023/24 .
The budget for mental health will grow faster than the rest of the NHS, and the fastest increase will be in children’s and young people’s mental health services.
There will be more support for schools with every secondary school in the country offered mental health first aid training. All new teachers will have training to spot signs of mental health issues. Mental health education will be a mandatory part of the curriculum.
There will also be extra money to give more adults access to talking therapies like the support offered by Mind Matters.
Local health managers have to come up with their detailed strategic plans by the end of the year to deliver these services.
I’ll be talking to those managers to ensure the work of Mind Matters in North Yorkshire is assisted to the greatest extent possible.
One of the highlights of the summer so far for my family was catching the last of the Osmotherley Summer Concerts in the village’s very lovely St Peter’s Church and held in aid of Macmillan.
It was standing-room only for the Osmotherley Community Choir expertly conducted by Eleanor Gill and featuring professional singer Emma Wilson of Great Broughton leading the audience in a rousing rendition of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. A splendid occasion was made just a little bit special for us by the performance of our two young daughters on piano. We thought they did rather well on their debut – but then again, we’re obviously biased!