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Our response to the Government’s announcement to appoint a new Minister for Mental Health

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Kate Majid, CEO of The Shaw Mind Foundation

To coincide with World Mental Health Day, Theresa May has announced that Jackie Doyle-Price will become the Minister for Mental Health. Jackie Doyle-Price will lead in ending the stigma that stops people from seeking help in those vital moments that can exist between life and death. This appointment has the potential to give the mental health community, and indeed our Foundation, some clear direction on where to place accountability to ensure the targets and the key objectives around suicide prevention begin to take shape, and be realised over the coming years.

With suicide rates reducing (albeit slowly), we are already stepping in the right direction. This ministerial appointment, along with the commitment to increase new funding for child and adolescent mental health services and the promise to introduce mental health education into the curriculum from September 2020, will undoubtedly help us achieve the ultimate goal of stopping those rates altogether. No one should feel that the only option available to them is to end their life by suicide.

However, we must not forget that, for some age and social groups, suicide rates have increased: for the first time in 20 years the rates of suicide for women in their mid-20s has gone up to over 100 per year, and the rate of self-harm for young girls continues to rise! This is unacceptable and we must not lose sight of this.

Our successful HeaducationUK campaign will continue to help to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness, normalise mental health issues and encourage open conversations through education. The more we educate our children and young people about mental health, the more people will begin to speak out and seek help when they need it. The more we talk about mental illness, the more lives we can begin to save.

Now, I wish to make one plea – as we celebrate this step forward, we must not forget that appointing a minister for suicide is but one small step in the fight against stigma. Fear and shame are what stop people from reaching out and seeking help and support, and it is only by seriously addressing the early causes of this shame and fear that we will win this battle.

We must start the conversation about emotional wellbeing as early as possible. It is only by us creating a new language around mental health difficulties and celebrating difference that we will really start to lift the lid on stigma.

Kate Majid, CEO of The Shaw Mind Foundation

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