Mixed reaction to health plans

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HEALTH experts today gave a mixed response to Government plans to plough more money into tackling mental illness.

The new mental health strategy for England promises extra £400million for therapies, such as counselling, to increase access to them by 60 per cent by 2015.

Ministers said this would help address mental health issues with the same intensity as physical health.

However, the ambitious plans have received a mixed reaction on Wearside.

Bosses at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, one of the largest mental health and disability trusts in England which runs Cherry Knowle Hospital, in Ryhope, welcomed the extra funding. Bruce Dickie, Director of Children, Young People and Specialist Services, said: “We are delighted that the new mental health strategy aims to treat mental health with the same priority and importance as physical health. We are also pleased that some of the additional money will enable children and young people improved access to early intervention and psychological therapies.

“This will allow for children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing to be at the forefront, for the first time of any mental health strategy. 

“It is really welcome news for the children and young people of the northern region accessing mental health services.”

But David Sanders, Head of Psychology at the University of Sunderland, said the Government should be focusing more on other factors which affect mental health.

He said: “Clearly any plans to further widen access to psychological therapies are welcome, but if the Government is serious about its intentions to address mental health issues it may need to consider the considerable evidence linking environmental factors such as unemployment to the development of depression and other mental health problems.”

Professor Dinesh Bhugra, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “There is still a long way to go for mental health patients to receive a satisfactory standard of care and treatment throughout England, and the challenge set out in this strategy needs to be taken up.”

The Government hopes the new money will help banish the stigma attached to mental health, although it acknowledged that unemployment and other economic stresses could cause a rise in such problems.

The cash being pumped into mental health provision will be extra money, it stressed, and would not just be shunted from another part of the health budget.

About £8 million a year will be spent on extending access to psychological therapies to children.

Under the strategy, called No Health Without Mental Health, it is hoped an extra 1.2 million people will receive treatment for depression and anxiety, leading to 500,000 more people recovering from mental illness and 75,000 more people being able to work or take part in education, training or volunteering.

The Government also plans to work in partnership with the voluntary sector and the wider community to challenge stigma and discrimination.