There is no finer investment than the mental health of the nation
In austere times Governments have to be very careful before choosing where to spend scarce resources. Ministers will often have to choose between two very good causes and, though they would ideally like to spend money on both, choose whichever investment they think will have the greatest impact on the good of the nation.
Winston Churchill once remarked that there was no finer investment than providing milk for babies. In the 21st century I would argue that the government could make no finer investment than in the mental health of the nation.
That is why I was so pleased to see that the Government has announced an extra £1.3bn more resources for mental health treatment.
Crucially, this is not simply throwing more resources at a problem, which is a theory of public administration tested to destruction each time that Labour are in office. Instead it is a carefully planned series of investments to enable the proper integration of mental and physical health services, train 21,000 more mental health workers and treat 1 million more people.
Mental illness is not a fringe subject: 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime. Even if you are lucky enough to not be affected directly, it is probable that you will know someone who will be.
And everyone is affected by the wider economic costs of mental illness: £105.2 billion each year in England alone. 70 million days are lost from work each year and mental ill health is the single largest cause of disability in the UK; even more than cancer or cardiovascular disease.
I have seen mental health as an issue evolve over the years I have represented you in Parliament. I contributed a chapter to a book called The Forgotten back when mental health treatment was a highly taboo subject. It is hard to believe that it was just 13 years ago.
This is a sign that this Government is committed to fighting injustice and helping the vulnerable. But that all depends on a strong economy. Labour’s policies to tax, regulate and nationalise would make us all poorer and jeopardise the investment in mental health that we so crucially need.