Prime minister Theresa May: ‘Tackling the injustice of mental illness is one of my absolute priorities’

Prime minister Theresa May. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

Prime minister Theresa May. Picture: NICK BUTCHER - Credit: Nick Butcher

Prime minister Theresa May is today visiting Norfolk to launch a national programme of mental health support. Here she writes exclusively for the EDP about why it is one of her main priorities in office.

The true impact of mental health problems on a person's life have been underestimated for far too long.

We as a society have disregarded our mental health as secondary to physical health, made worse by the stigma and misunderstanding associated with mental illness. So I believe that to truly demonstrate the values of compassion and progress that we as a society share, we must transform the way we think about mental health and treat mental illness.

Changes in the workplace are a vital part of that and today I look forward to visiting a company working in Norfolk that is leading the way and showing that businesses can deal better with mental health issues among their employees. Construction and infrastructure firm Morgan Sindall is doing excellent work making its staff aware that help is available and supporting those that need it. Setting up a Raising Concerns helpline, signposting to local and national support services, running stress reduction workshops and planning a programme to train mental health first aiders are just some of the great initiatives they are spearheading.

This work is particularly important because we know that construction workers are an at-risk group, with suicide rates for the sector almost four times the national average. But we also know that mental health issues affect employees of all backgrounds and from all sectors.

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Earlier this year I asked Paul Farmer and Lord Dennis Stevenson to carry out an independent review into how employers can better support all individuals, including those with mental ill health or poor well-being, to remain in and thrive at work.

And we as a government are already acting. I have asked the NHS and Civil Service to introduce a set of standards which will ensure employees have the knowledge, tools and confidence to understand and look after their own mental health – and the mental health of their colleagues.

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More than two million public sector workers will benefit from the changes, making the sector a hugely important flagbearer in this drive.

The Eastern Daily Press has also been doing excellent work through its Mental Health Watch campaign to raise awareness and tackle the stigma around mental health. I commend them for bringing this important issue to people's attention.

Tackling the injustice of mental illness is one of my absolute priorities as prime minister and I believe that by taking these steps we as a society can transform the way we approach mental illness, and reap the benefits that will bring to us all.

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