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expert reaction to Theresa May’s pledge to overhaul mental health care

The government is to announce measures aimed at reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness, the Prime Minister has said. In a speech, Theresa May will announce extra training for teachers, more online self-checking for those with concerns and a review of services for children and teenagers.


Ms Cynthia Joyce, CEO of MQ: Transforming mental health, said:

“We welcome the Prime Minister’s leadership in pledging to tackle mental illness. And as 75% of mental health problems start before the age of 18 she is right to focus on children and young people.

“Her speech sets out plans that could help thousands of people by improving mental health support – with important action across Government departments.  But if we are to truly transform mental healthcare, we need to fill major gaps in our knowledge and evidence for treating and preventing mental illness.  And this will only be achieved if research is at the heart of the Government’s approach.

“For too long, mental health research has been underfunded and under-prioritised – particularly in relation to young people’s mental health.  As a result, the majority of treatments and services are not designed or developed for young people, too often leading to poor treatment outcomes and hindering prevention efforts.”


Jon Spiers, CEO of Autistica, said:

“Research shows that better mental health support is the top priority for people on the autism spectrum. Sadly 79% of autistic adults report having had mental health problems and the latest studies suggest that people with autism are over nine times more likely to take their own life. That’s why it’s so vital that the Government’s latest action on mental health includes specific steps to support those most at risk of poor mental health, especially children and adults on the autism spectrum.”


Prof. Sir Simon Wessely, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Professor of Psychological Medicine, King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, said:

“She is right to focus on the importance of early years in shaping later mental health, and helping teachers to support troubled children must be the right thing.

“Her commitment to proper trials to look at how to strengthen the links between schools and local NHS mental health staff confirms that she accepts the importance of proceeding on the basis of sound evidence.

“But the biggest challenge she faces is ensuring the £1.4bn pledged to child and adolescent mental health services actually reaches the frontline – which has not happened yet.

“We know that at least 350 more child and adolescent psychiatrists are needed just to deliver what the government has already promised for CAMHS and there is a long way to go before mental and physical health services are on an equal footing.”


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