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Mental Health: Education

Volume 629: debated on Tuesday 10 October 2017

10. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Education on promoting improved education in schools and youth settings to tackle the stigma associated with mental health. (901015)

Ahead of our autumn Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health, we are having productive discussions with the Department for Education on the vital role that schools can play in tackling both mental health problems and the stigma surrounding them.

The YMCA and NHS’s #IAMWHOLE campaign, which was launched this morning, shows that young people seeking help are often dismissed by those around them, largely due to a lack of understanding of mental health difficulties. Will the Secretary of State meet the YMCA to discuss what can be done to combat the stigma?

I am more than happy to meet the YMCA. I also want to point out the amazing work done by the “Time2Change” campaign. I was at an event to mark its 10th anniversary, and I heard from young people who have spoken up about their mental health conditions, which takes a lot of courage. Things are changing, and we can draw a lot of hope from what is happening on the ground.

Family doctors undertake such work, but why have only a quarter of them had any formal training in mental health?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to point out that a GP is often the first point of contact for many people. What are we doing? Three thousand mental health professionals will be seconded to GP surgeries over the next few years to give GPs the back-up they need in that area.

Not for the first time, I implore the right hon. Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) to issue to colleagues his textbook on succinct questions.

Since the demand for children and youth mental health services far outstrips supply, will the Secretary of State consider diverting resources to voluntary bodies, such as the admirable Off The Record in my constituency, which have a much lower threshold for referral?

We will look at the role of voluntary organisations, and I totally agree with the right hon. Gentleman that they have an incredibly important role to play. We must also consider the role of schools, because teachers are extremely enthusiastic to do more around mental health. I think that if we give them more support there is a lot more they could do.

The Secretary of State will know that when it comes to physical health and stigma, the Department will react right away. Do the Government now recognise the importance of treating mental health with equal status to physical health?

We absolutely recognise that and we have legislated for it. The children and mental health Green Paper will take further steps in that direction.