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Westminster Column: Mental Health

In the run up to next year’s General Election there will inevitably be much discussion about the economy. This is right - the economy should be one of the top priorities for governments and voters alike - and the improvement in the economy is now visible to all. But the Prime Minister has always made it clear that this Government’s success should not just be measured by its stewardship of the economic recovery, but also by the nation’s wellbeing. The Coalition Government produced the first public health strategy that gives equal weight to both mental and physical health, signalling its commitment to taking seriously issues of mental health.

It was with this in mind that I was so pleased to come across an organisation in Sutton Coldfield that has proved itself so committed to addressing the same challenges. Earlier this year I visited Social Eyes, an anxiety and depression support initiative founded by Gary Underwood.

My visit followed the awarding of £4,531 by the Big Lottery Fund to Social Eyes in recognition and support of the work that they do. This grant has allowed the organisation to expand services to young people in schools and to help increase awareness of mental health issues, in addition to the fantastic work they already do to create a support network for people suffering with social anxiety and depression.

During my visit I was given a tour of the meeting space and facilities, which are run by volunteers at the Our Place Community Hub on Farthing Lane. Gary Underwood was a wonderful host, and explained the importance of having a safe and supportive environment for social anxiety and depression sufferers to express themselves and meet others with similar problems.

What I saw during my trip to Social Eyes reassured me that Sutton Coldfield has a number of excellent organisations caring for those suffering with mental health problems. But we must not be complacent about the importance of tackling mental health problems, which can cast such a shadow over so many lives.

So I hope that as we go into the next election we are not only hailing the progress made in the economic sphere, but are also able to point to improvements in both the perception and treating of mental health problems, and that this remains a focus for successive governments long after the next election.

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