“A burning injustice” - Norfolk politicians lay out plans for mental health support at youth debate
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Candidates from across Norfolk were quizzed by 15 to 25 year old's at a special hustings organised by the Mancroft Advice Project at Norwich OPEN on Tuesday evening.
Richard Bearman of the Green Party, Conservative Chloe Smith, Sarah Simpson for Labour, James Wright for the Liberal Democrats and Catherine Blaiklock of UKIP fielded questions ranging from the voting age to mental health and Brexit.
Cross party consensus was achieved on lowering the voting age to 16 before Mr Wright, standing in Norwich South, divided the room by proposing legalisation of cannabis to bring down the levels of potency.
'There is evidence that links high potency cannabis with mental ill health,' he said.
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Ms Blaiklock, standing for UKIP in Great Yarmouth, was challenged several times from the floor, including on the minimum wage and migration.
'We have a massive shortage of nurses and in all sorts of skill areas,' she said. 'You would be amazed how much blacksmiths earn. One of the reasons we want to stop migration completely is for young people.'
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Discussing mental health problems, some members of the audience rejected the idea social media was to blame for problems among young people.
Ms Simpson said there had to be parity between treatment for physical health and mental health.
'There is at least one school I know of that has had to stop all their mental health support,' she said. 'This is not something we can transform in 24 hours. The biggest thing we can do is give it the appropriate level of funding.'
Praising the work of charities, Mr Bearman, Green candidate for Norwich South, said: 'Some things are already happening. MIND run an excellent mental health first aid course. Every adult in the country should take that to recognise the early signs of mental health problems. We need a better society that recognises when people are struggling.
'This government has been cutting adult social care to councils for five years and there is a definite mismatch between the 'national disease service' and the social care system.'
Ms Blaiklock claimed there is a 'massive link' between eating and mental health, revealing her own battle with bulimia.
'When you are in crisis and almost suicidal, you get an appointment in 10 days when someone might have committed suicide and doesn't need it any more,' she said.
Mrs Smith cited a young constituent waiting for an appointment with mental health services since August as a 'burning injustice' and admitted there is more work to do.
'Making mental health services equal is a matter of money but also about how people are treated,' she said. 'We are going to train up a generation of mental health first aiders.'
Mr Wright said charities who are experts in their fields should be able to provide services in partnership with the NHS.
Questions were also fielded on Brexit and the national living wage, with the event hosted by ITV Anglia's Jonathan Wills.