THE very fact that The Yorkshire Post commissioned a special investigation into the state of mental health services across the region reflects the issue’s importance as it rises up the political agenda.
Twenty years ago when Tony Blair’s communications chief Alastair Campbell was at the centre of power, mental illness was commonly perceived as a sign of weakness at a time when sufferers were expected to keep a ‘stiff upper lip’ in the face of personal adversity – the response of Princes William and Harry to the tragic death of their mother.
Now, thanks to his candour, and the courage of all those who have spoken so powerfully, and so publicly, about coming to terms with their own demons, mental health is already one of the touchstone issues of this election and each of the main parties has been quick to set out their own policies before the official unveiling of their respective manifestoes.
Yet, while the mentally ill are now having the confidence to seek the support – both practical and emotional – that was not previously open to them, this enlightenment depends on locally accessible services being fit for purpose. They’re not. Patients, and their families, are in despair as they travel long distances for specialist support. Lives are in danger of being put at risk as waiting lists are growing longer. And there’s increasing evidence of a postcode lottery as care providers struggle to keep pace with demand, despite promises of increased resources as Theresa May commits herself to genuine parity of funding between mental and physical health.
This should not be about party politics. It’s about Britain’s leaders listening to mental health campaigners and this newspaper, which remains at the forefront of a national initiative on loneliness, and doing the right thing. Their response will speak volumes about the type of society that they aspire Britain to become.