Thursday, May 16, 2013

Today's Commons debate on mental health

Last year the Commons held an historic backbench debate on mental health. Historic not just because it tackled what was once almost a taboo subject, but also because a number of MPs spoke about their own mental health problems.

The two most prominent were Charles Walker and Kevan Jones - so much so that in today's debate Jones said that they had become "the Eric and Ernie of the mental health conference circuit". (He added: "I leave it to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and the House to discern which of us is Eric and which is Ernie.")

Today Charles Walker again made a significant contribution:
I remain terribly concerned about psychosis and schizophrenia. I mentioned a few minutes ago that anyone with a diagnosis of psychosis or schizophrenia is likely to be unemployed. If one is not unemployed at the time, one will end up unemployed. Life expectancy, which has already been mentioned today, can be up to 20 years shorter than for someone who does not have that diagnosis. That is not acceptable in a civilised society and should not be tolerated. I have spoken about this before in an Adjournment debate and I want to revisit it because it is so important. 
My concern, having talked to people who care for loved ones with schizophrenia—sons, daughters, mothers or fathers - is that sometimes the NHS is more interested in managing the illness than with the overall health needs of the patient. Symptoms are managed down so that patients do not make a nuisance of themselves and take up time, but when one stands back and looks at them, they are desperately unhappy. It does not matter if they are smoking 70 or 80 cigarettes a day, because they are not making a nuisance of themselves. It does not matter if they weigh 20 to 25 stone, because they are not making a nuisance of themselves. It does matter, however, because that patient is slowly killing himself or herself and we have to address that.

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