I recently hosted a mental health summit at the Town Hall in Leicester. Although I often disagree with the Government, I do agree with the sentiment of its strategy document No Health Without Mental Health.
The aim of this document is to improve the mental health and well-being of the nation and to improve outcomes for people with mental health problems through high-quality services.
I believe if services are to improve the lives of people suffering from mental illnesses and their carers, they have to be what are needed and wanted.
In November I held a pre-summit event which 60 mental health service users and their carers attended, along with representatives from voluntary sector organisations. A key finding was that clinical and health services alone are not enough.
There is also a need for social support, whether it is supported housing, drop-in facilities or various types of learning and educational activities.
The role of the voluntary and community sector and its relationship to the statutory sector are key to providing this.
Although the Government says it wants to improve the outcomes for people with mental health problems, its austerity programme, including its savage cuts to our city council's funding, is making it more difficult to provide the high-quality social support services needed and wanted by service users and carers.
Despite the sentiment expressed in No Health Without Mental Health, the other parts of the Government's austerity programme can lead to more people suffering from mental illnesses or the illness becoming more severe.
It is well known mental illness is associated with social exclusion, deprivation, domestic violence, low income, unemployment, poor housing and low educational attainment.
Given this context, I am therefore concerned about the effects of cuts to benefits and tax credits, cuts to the public sector and cuts to public funding to social housing, leading to less refurbished and new accommodation.
The estimated number of people in Leicester with serious and enduring mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder and other psychosis, is about 3,400.
The estimated number of people with anxiety and depression is about 30,000. Prescriptions for anti-depressant medications are increasing.
These numbers are clearly too high and may yet rise given the Government's agenda.
We must do what we can in Leicester to improve the lives of people with mental health problems through high-quality services and support.
The summit brought together representatives from the organisations making the decisions about mental health provision and they heard how the benefits of social support should not be underestimated.
The summit must have a legacy and provide the services wanted and needed by mental health service users and carers.
As a part of this legacy, I will be a local champion for mental health, raising issues with the Government, the council, the clinical commissioning group and Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust on behalf of the voluntary and community sector.
If You would like to contact Jon Ashworth MP, telephone 0116 251 1927 or e-mail him at: