Mental health care in this country has for too long been a Cinderella service.
Despite the development of modern treatment therapies and facilities, Governments have not always devoted sufficient energy and resources to the care of the mentally ill.
I’m pleased to the say the NHS Long Term Plan – unveiled three weeks ago – goes a long way to address this and put the service on the road to parity of esteem with the care provided for patients with physical illnesses.
The plan has been given a kick-start with the five-year funding deal that will see the NHS budget grow by over £20.5 billion a year. Mental health services will receive an additional £2 billion every year.
That money will be spent on a new mental health crisis service with comprehensive mental health support available in every major A&E. There will be new children and young peoples' crisis teams across the country and the extra funding will also deliver more mental health ambulances and a 24-hour mental health crisis hotline when people are in urgent need of help.
These new services will help end the stigma surrounding mental health, offering crucial support to people suffering from crisis and those who have suffered in silence for too long.
I’ll be making sure that this extra funding is delivered locally, helping to sustain and develop facilities - like the excellent children and adolescent mental health team for Richmondshire and Hambleton based at Brompton House, Northallerton, whom I visited last year.
I will also continue to monitor the roll-out of our new community mental health services being put in place to make sure our local health managers deliver on the promises they made to treat more people at home or closer to home.
All this is in addition to many great initiatives already underway in our community.
Like the plan to create a safe space refuge in Northallerton town centre for those with mental health issues led by the town’s New Life Baptist Church and the town’s other churches.
And a tremendous project I relaunched this month at Northdale Horticulture in Northallerton’s Yafforth Road, the charity which provides training and work-based activities for adults with learning disabilities.
Having merged with another local charity, The Skill Mill, Northdale now provides work-based activities for adults with mental health issues, the early stages of dementia and adults challenged by issues associated with social isolation. The service offers access to meaningful craft and work-based activities.
While the running costs of Northdale and The Skill Mill are primarily met from local health and council care budgets, the development of the new service has been assisted by fundraising support from the local community.
In addition to supporters like Morrisons and the Northallerton branch of the TSB, so many other local firms – the Golden Lion, Sam Turners, Bettys to name just a few - and individuals have been involved in raising money.
The expanded Skill Mill service, run with infectious commitment and passion by Jan Dick and Northdale manager Simon Cross, works closely with the area’s community mental health team and it has places available. Potential members can be referred by their doctor or other health professional.
It is great services like these that we should fund and encourage to provide the treatment in the community we all want to see – making mental health as important as physical health.