Prime Minister Theresa May is to set out plans to tackle the “hidden injustice” of mental illness and overhaul mental health care in a speech today.

brain waves and testsIn a speech to the Charity Commission, May is expected to announce plans for more mental health training and support for schools and in the workplace and an expansion of digital services.

This will include every secondary school in the country being offered mental health first aid training and new trials to look at how to strengthen the links between schools and local NHS mental health staff. There will also be a major thematic review of children and adolescent mental health services, led by the Care Quality Commission, to identify what is and isn’t working and a new Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health to set out plans to transform services in schools, universities and for families.

In addition, May will say that Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, will lead a review on how best to ensure employees with mental health problems are supported in the workplace. This will involve promoting best practice and learning from employers already doing well on workplace wellbeing, as well as offering tools to organisations – of any size – to assist with employee wellbeing and mental health. It will review recommendations around discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of mental health.

In the community, the government will invest £15 million to provide and promote new models of community–based care such as crisis cafes and community clinics.

There will also be £67.7 million spent on digital mental health package so that people worried about stress, anxiety or more serious issues can go online, check their symptoms and access digital therapy.

Finally, the Department of Health will undertake a formal review of the ‘mental health debt form’ - currently people with mental ill health who are struggling with debt can be charged up to £300 by their GP to provide evidence of their mental health problems – working with Money and Mental Health. The government will also support NHS England’s commitment to eliminate inappropriate placements to inpatient beds for children and young people by 2021.

May is expected to say: “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, it 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 values we share, the attitudes we hold and our determination to come together and support each other.

“I want us to employ the power of government as a force for good to transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society, and at every stage of life.

“What I am announcing are the first steps in our plan to transform the way we deal with mental illness in this country at every stage of a person’s life: not in our hospitals, but in our classrooms, at work and in our communities. 

“This starts with ensuring that children and young people get the help and support they need and deserve – because we know that mental illness too often starts in childhood and that when left untreated, can blight lives, and become entrenched.

“This is a historic opportunity to right a wrong, and give people deserving of compassion and support the attention and treatment they deserve. And for all of us to change the way we view mental illness so that striving to improve mental wellbeing is seen as just as natural, positive and good as striving to improve our physical wellbeing.”

Paul Farmer welcomed the announcements. “Mental health should be at the heart of government, and at the heart of society and communities – it’s been on the periphery for far too long.

“The proof will be in the difference it makes to the day-to-day experience of the one in four who will experience a mental health problem this year. Mental health is everyone’s business and we need to see sustained leadership to make sure services and support improve for all of us with mental health problems. Having been neglected for decades, we need to see it made a priority for decades to come to make sure everyone with mental health problems can live the life they want to lead.”