Children’s Mental Health Week

When the Liberal Democrats were in Government, I had the privilege of being Minister of State for Care and Support at the Department of Health. As Health Minister I worked to ensure that mental health was treated with the same priority as physical health, introducing the first ever access and waiting time standards for mental health. We also secured more money for children and young people’s mental health services.

Almost half of all LGBT+ pupils still face bullying at school for being lesbian or gay or bisexual or transgender. Half have self-harmed.

But for me one of the things I am most proud of from my time in Government, and which I believe had a huge impact on people’s mental health, was voting for same-sex marriage.

This week is children’s mental health week and there have been a lot of positive conversations about the high numbers of young people suffering with mental health conditions and how society supports them. With 50% of mental health problems starting by the age of 14 and 75% by age 18, providing the right support at the right time is vital for ensuring people receive the right care.

But this week is not only children’s mental health week, it is also the first week of LGBT+ history month. LGBT+ history months looks back at the journey LGBT+ people have taken in the fight against prejudice, discrimination and violence. For everything that has been achieved for LGBT+ equality, it is vital that we keep moving forward and fighting for more – not just for equality, but for the future of people’s mental health.

Almost half of all LGBT+ pupils still face bullying at school for being lesbian or gay or bisexual or transgender. It is therefore heart-breaking yet unsurprising to hear that of 14-year-olds who are gay lesbian or bisexual, half have self-harmed.

Eating disorders, like self-harm, disproportionately affects younger people. And again like self-harm, LGBT+ young people are much more likely than their peers to develop an eating disorder.

We have made strides in recent years both in mental health and in reducing societal prejudice towards LGBT+ people. But more needs to be done. Yes it is good that seven in ten LGBT+ young people now report that their school says that homophobic and biphobic bullying is wrong – but that means there are still three in ten LGBT+ young people whose schools do not. And yes 60% of LGBT+ pupils say they have now been taught about LGBT+ issues at school – but that also means 40% have not.

On #TimeToTalkDay it’s so important we encourage everyone to talk openly about their mental health and be willing to have conversations with friends and loved ones we are concerned about. Only then will we end the stigma attached to mental ill health.

— Norman Lamb (@normanlamb) February 7, 2019

The same-sex marriage act was a hugely significant step for equal rights with positive mental health reverberations. But the Liberal Democrats want to do more; we will continue to demand better for our children and young people.

That is why we would not only invest more than any other party in mental health, but we would also ensure that LGBT+ inclusive mental health services receive funding and support.

We would train counsellors and those in mental health provision in LGBT+ awareness so that when our LGBT+ young people turn for help, those providing the help will understand the impact their words and actions can have, and the impact bullying based on sexuality and gender can have on a person.

The Liberal Democrats would also ensure that schools not only provide teaching in relationships and sex education, but that that teaching covers LGBT+ relationships, gender stereotypes and sexuality.