The 10th of October is World Mental Health Day. It is an international day of action and better awareness about how mental health affects everyone. It also presents an opportunity to breakdown stereotypes and to campaign against the social stigma that is often associated with poor mental health. I know from my own experience how difficult it can be to open up about poor mental health and to seek the help that we need. That is why I want to share my story, to encourage others to get the help which they deserve.
I used my Maiden Speech in the House of Commons after my election to speak about how poor mental health has affected me personally. During my training for the Army, I suffered a high-velocity gunshot wound to the foot. I was aged just seventeen. I was initially told that my foot and possibly my lower leg would have to be amputated. I did not accept any of this news so I undertook an intensive rehabilitation process. Within a year, I had returned to full active duty. While I proved to be an effective soldier, I bottled up what had happened to me. I never spoke about it nor showed any emotion. I believed that to do so would have been a sign of weakness, something to be frowned upon. For a long time, I was at a point of crisis and eventually resolved to end my life. The one thing that prevented me from doing so was the thought of my children growing up without a father, as I had done from the age of eight when my dad’s life was tragically cut short. While it took me a long time to fully digest what happened, I found the hope and courage I needed to speak out in the love showed by my family and friends. During this time, I also discovered faith and my belief in how precious life is.
I now want to use the platform that I have as Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton South West to campaign for both much-needed legislative and social change on this generation-defining issue. For starters, I have been working with my colleagues to produce a mental health guide. This has been specifically designed for everyone, given my belief that we are all affected by mental health. This guide contains helpful advice and it can be downloaded from this page or sent to your home address in Wolverhampton South West by simply sending an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Championing health and well-being is a key priority of mine, and I believe that access to mental health support remains as critical as ever, especially in light of the current situation regarding Coronavirus. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to our amazing charities who are at the forefront of both our response to Coronavirus and those providing invaluable services to those suffering from mental health. I am encouraged that leading mental health charities are being supported to deliver additional services through the £5 million Coronavirus Mental Health Response Fund. I am also glad that NHS mental health services will receive an additional £2 billion per year as part of the five-year funding offer. This will see the NHS grow by over £33.9 billion a year and will enable faster access to better services.
Money alone is not enough. Challenging poor perceptions of mental health needs to form an integral part of our work. As part of this, I welcome Government’s commitment to treat mental health with the same importance as physical health. We must now act to deliver on this commitment. That is why I welcome that an independent review of the Mental Health Act has been undertaken and its recommendations are being considered by the Government. Its response will be set out in a White Paper expected to be published by the end of the year. Ministers have expressed their clear intention to reform mental health law, and I look forward to debating proposals that are brought before Parliament.
As a parent, I understand the significant impact that Coronavirus will have had upon the mental health of young people and their families. Last World Mental Health Day, the Government committed to publish an annual report to better understand young people’s mental health, alongside guidance for schools to help them ensure that the right support is put in place. In light of this virus, I am encouraged that the Government has made available £8 billion to help improve how schools and colleges respond to the emotional impact of Coronavirus on both students and staff. Work is also underway to equip schools with Mental Health Support Teams. I will be campaigning to ensure that our community gets its share of funding. The motto of Wolverhampton is “out of darkness cometh light.” In holding on to this light and by working together, I believe that our great city can emerge from this difficult time as strong as possible.