This article originally appeared in the South London Press on 17/10/16.


South London MPs pledged to take the fight for better mental health all the way to Westminster this week, as senior politicians lined up to support the South London Press and London Weekly News Change Is Possible campaign.

A team of top politicians came forward to endorse the appeal, which aims to reduce the stigma around mental health in south London and raise vital funds for Lambeth and Southwark Mind.

Labour MPs Heidi Alexander, Neil Coyle, Jim Dowd, Vicky Foxcroft, Helen Hayes and Chuka Umunna all signed up to support the campaign, standing shoulder to shoulder with charity representatives in Westminster on Tuesday (October 25).

It is the first political endorsement for our appeal and comes as the fundraising total nears its next major milestone of £5,000.

Heidi Alexander, who represents Lewisham East and served as shadow health secretary until earlier this year, urged readers to support our “life-saving” campaign.

“For too long mental health hasn’t been given the priority it deserves,” she said.

“When you’ve got a broken leg, everyone sees it. When you’re suffering from poor mental health, the effects can be no less debilitating but all too often it’s not thought to be so serious. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“I urge everyone to get behind the campaign. If you can give, please be as generous as you can. If you can’t, speak to a friend or neighbour and spread the word. It really could be life-saving.”

Streatham MP Chuka Umunna said mental health was a “cradle to grave issue” that required closer attention within the NHS.

He added: “While stigmatisation around mental health is being challenged, far too many people in this country still feel as if they have to pretend they have something else wrong with them when they are struggling with a mental health condition.

“By raising funds for new support groups, staff and facilities, Mind is playing an important role in supplying vital services and tackling stigma around mental health in south London.”

Mind has lobbied the Government to commit to a series of strategies designed to improve the treatment of people with mental health problems.

It has consistently called for parity of funding between mental and physical health problems, while pressing ministers to improve access to talking therapies and crisis care.

But we hope the support of our local MPs will now make a huge difference in driving mental health up the political agenda.

South London Press and London Weekly News managing directors Philip Evans and Hannah Walker welcomed the endorsement as a key step forward in our campaign for change.

They said: “We are delighted to see that so many of our local parliamentary representatives share our passion and we are sure they will do everything they can to promote the cause among their colleagues in Westminster.”

POLITICAL SUPPORT FOR OUR MENTAL HEALTH APPEAL

Jim Dowd, Lewisham West and Penge:
“Mental health is often referred to as the ‘Cinderella’ of the NHS both because of the huge number of people who suffer with these problems and that, compared to other areas of the health service, it receives proportionately much lower funding. One in four people will experience a mental health problem but barely a quarter of these will receive sufficient help. More needs to be done to tackle this issue.”

Helen Hayes, Dulwich and West Norwood:
“Anyone can experience mental health problems but mental health services do not receive adequate resources and stigma sadly still means that we don’t talk about our mental health enough. That makes local services like Lambeth and Southwark Mind all the more important. They do such valuable work to improve the wellbeing of those struggling with mental health issues and they will be able to achieve even more with the money raised by the Change Is Possible campaign.”

Vicky Foxcroft, Lewisham Deptford:
“The South London Press and Lambeth and Southwark Mind Change Is Possible campaign looks to be a great way to help tackle the stigma surrounding mental health. Raising awareness and hearing people talk openly about their stories can give vulnerable people the confidence to reach out and seek support.”

Neil Coyle, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark:
“My whole life has involved mental health awareness as my mum has schizophrenia. This shaped some of my earliest and most difficult memories but watching her and our wider family not get the help needed raised my awareness of how poorly we as a country treat mental health problems and their impact. Coalition and current Government cuts have hit mental health services badly and left south London with insufficient services, with the police often left to deal with the consequences. Raising awareness and seeking better support now should be a priority for us all.”

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