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09 January 2017

The prime minister promises a shared society to tackle mental illness

The prime minister promises a shared society to tackle mental illness

The prime minister said today the "burning injustice" of mental illness needs to be tackled.  

In a speech calling for a ‘shared society’, Theresa May specifically addressed mental health challenges in the UK, announcing new policy plans

Speaking at the Charity Commission, the PM said solidarity and stronger communities would be at the core of the 'shared society'  

The prime minister said: For too long mental illness has been something of a hidden injustice in our country, shrouded in a completely unacceptable stigma and dangerously disregarded as a secondary issue to physical health.”  Yet left unaddressed, it destroys lives, separates people from each other and deepens the divisions within our society. Changing this goes right to the heart of our humanity; to the heart of the kind of country we are, the attitudes we hold and the values we share.” 

In a distinct break from the previous language of the Big Society promoted by her predecessor David Cameron, May’s talk of a shared society sought to recognise the role of government action, private enterprise, as well as everything that sits in between market and state, from families and neighbourhoods to churches and charities.  

May declared that: “We have a once in a generation chance to ask ourselves the question, ‘what kind of country do we want to be’?” 

The Evangelical Alliance welcomed the prime minister’s words, but called for more than just words: “Across all the nations of the UK, the vibrant and diverse evangelical constituency is serving and leading in communities long blighted by the 'burning injustices' that Mrs May refers to. But we don't just want to pick up the pieces from failed political experiments. We want to play a central role in providing the solutions.”  

The plans announced included the provision of training for every secondary school, and increasing training for employers to help them support staff. By 2021, Theresa May committed, no child will be sent away from their local area for mental health care and treatment.  

 Addressing the provision of mental health services the prime minister said she was committed to ensuring “charities, churches and community organisations can access funding so they can run them too”. 

Responding to the speech, Rachael Newman, founding director of Think Twice, commented: “May’s speech does a great job of raising awareness of the state of mental health care in the UK and rightly encourages the need for good mental health training, but unless her words are backed up by an increase in funding and an assurance that the funding allocated will be spent on mental health care the stigma and inequality will continue.  

As the Church we need to be stepping up and ensuring we are equipped to recognise the signs of mental illness and care for individuals and the whole community.” 

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The Nov/Dec 2015 issue of idea magazine examined health and the church, including a look at stress and wellbeing from Andrew Parnham, creator of Livability’s ‘The Happiness Course’