Whilst most of my memories of Parliament are happy ones, there is the occasional upsetting incident, and the one that will stick with me most was the recent terror attack in which PC Keith Palmer and 5 others lost their lives. I was reminded of the tragedy this week when Tobias Ellwood MP shared his memories of the attack as part of a new campaign urging our Armed Forces veterans to not bottle up their emotions. Reading Tobias’ interview, I was struck by how openly he expressed his emotions about how the event and the aftermath, having to explain it to his young son, had affected him. His message is a very important one for everyone who has been through trauma, particularly members of our Armed Forces, and I am very proud of the Government’s innovative new strategy to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the Armed Forces, their families, veterans and defence civilians. The new strategy will include plans to introduce standardised mental health and wellbeing education and training for all those working in defence, invest in research on resilience training, improve access to clinical assessment, de-medicalise mental health to include anxiety and depression, and develop partnerships with key charities in order to continue anti-stigma campaigns. Hopefully the incredible example set by Tobias Ellwood and Prince Harry will encourage more people to think about and address their own mental health concerns.
This new strategy follows on from the welcome news that the NHS plans to recruit 21,000 new mental health workers in England to properly integrate mental and physical health services. We know that we need to do more to attract, retain and support the mental health workforce of the future, and that is why we are investing £1.3bn to treat an extra one million people by 2021- one of the biggest expansions of mental health services in Europe. Child and adolescent services will see 2,000 additional nurses, consultants and therapists, while 2,900 extra therapists and other health professionals will be involved in adult talking therapies. 4,600 posts will be added in crisis care settings and some of the 4,000 psychiatrists and 30,000 trained mental health nurses not substantively employed by the NHS will be encouraged to return to the profession. The plans are ambitious but, I believe, essential for delivering the high performing and well-resourced mental health services we all want to see. Locally, we have lots of support available from the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, and charities such as Wiltshire Mind and Help for Heroes, and I would encourage anyone with concerns about their mental health to contact these groups.