Shadow Minister for mental health attends round table event with Unite union

Invisible Suffering – Unite Mental Health Round Table event with Shadow Minister for Mental Health

ACP and Unite union member, Selina Perocevic and Media and Comms lead, Alison Roy recently attended a Round Table event organised by Unite. The event started with introductions and welcome from the Chair of Unite Health NISC, Paddy Bond (Unite NHS staff Council and Chair) and Colenzo Jarrett Thorpe, Unite National Officer and now full-time officer for the Applied Psychology Committee where the ACP has reps.

They set the scene for changes in mental health and how members of the mental health workforce were reporting increased levels of stress and mental health difficulties amongst staff. Colenzo also contextualised the event, explaining how at the last Unite Health Sector Industrial Conference in November 2015, they passed a motion entitled: “Invisible Suffering – Mental Health Treatment Provision is disgraceful”.  He said he hoped that "today we will be able to join together as a Union to begin a campaign raising awareness about the injustice of mental health provision and treatment of the workforce."

Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary, talked about mental health in the media in her opening remarks and that she felt strongly we were moving “backwards not forwards” when it comes to mental health,  adding that mortality related to mental health issues has increased. 

Luciana Berger MP for Liverpool and Shadow Minister for Mental Health gave her keynote speech highlighting that policy in mental health is creating more stress and mental ill-health in the work place. She talked about some of initiatives she had instigated and the questions she raises regularly in parliament, such as how many children have died in mental health establishments/hospital wards. She said that these questions could not be answered because the data isn’t there. She described this as shocking and not in line with the parity of esteem argument when records about deaths in physical health are much more available and accurate. Some of the other issues she raised and facts or changes she was aware of, which have come about since this government (or the coalition) have been in power:

  • Cuts to children’s centres
  • Cuts to youth workers
  • 30% drop in access to education psychologists
  • Removal of deprivation weighting for high poverty cities and areas
  • Mental health provision in prisons reduced
  • Increased stress and demanding contracts for junior doctors
  • Private sector competition and turning mental health care into a market place
  • Government underspend on mental health which is already marginalised
  • 10 million extra prescriptions a year linked to mental health issues, where there appears to be too much focus on medication without other treatments.

She has also been asking a mental health question every morning and keeps trying to hold the government to account about mental health. She said she needs our help and cannot do this on her own. Gaining the support of others, she said, like mental health organisations and unions, is key to addressing the imbalance.

Labour’s Health Policy Commission was also discussed and the need to respond to this and get involved. Members can see the full report here.

The event focused on the role of Unite in bringing hope to professionals if they all come together. All ACP members interested in joining the union can join online via the UNITE website.

Julia Mikardo & Danny Goldberger are the two national reps from the ACP on the Applied Psychology Committee within the Health Sector of UNITE.

They can be contacted via email at:   julia@mikardo.co.uk or dzgoldberger@hotmail.com