Call to action on mental health

West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) will next week (Tues 31 Jan) launch an action plan to transform the way people with mental health problems are treated by public services and employers.

The plan is a priority project for the combined authority and is the result of months of work by the WMCA Mental Health Commission.

Call to action on mental health

Norman Lamb MP will launch the commission report

Poor mental health results in enormous distress for individuals, greater pressure on public services and reduced economic productivity.

WMCA has identified this as a priority area where it can deliver significant public sector reform.

Norman Lamb MP chairs the commission panel, created to advise the CA and government on how to make a real difference in this area. It is the first of its kind in the UK.

The panel’s focus is on putting forward concrete plans which will transform public services to lessen the impact of poor mental health, redirecting current resources in the context of the CA devolution deal.

Challenging employers to support the wellbeing of their staff and assisting them in that is also a key strand of the work.

Mr Lamb said: “We wanted to be more ambitious than simply producing a report with more recommendations that change nothing.

“Instead we have developed an action plan to which key organisations across the region have signed up.

“I want this to be the start of a journey for the West Midlands - the moral and the economic case for acting is unanswerable and the work we plan to develop would be internationally significant.

“The West Midlands will be part of a global network of leading cities and city regions which are doing major projects on mental health – this will be something this region can be very proud of.”

WMCA lead for mental health, Cllr Pete Lowe, said: “Most people will know someone with mental ill health.  It has an often overwhelming impact on families and an estimated annual cost to the region of £12.6 billion.

“People with mental ill health get a raw deal - too often they suffer in silence, unable to get help.

“We believe that everyone in our community has an essential contribution to make and by addressing mental health inequalities – in employment, housing and the criminal justice system - we are making a clear statement that the combined authority is working for everyone.”

In a unique collaborative working arrangement, Supt Sean Russell has been seconded from West Midlands Police as implementation director for the commission.

He was an original member of the commission’s steering group, having played a key role in innovative police work around mental health in the region.

Supt Russell will manage delivery of the action plan that aims to make a huge difference to West Midlands people with mental health problems by reducing the impact of mental ill health, building happy, thriving communities and supporting those who experience mental ill health.

He said: “I want us all to work together in the region to get rid of the stigma around mental health and make people think about it differently.

“We need to realise that this is our responsibility – as individuals, organisations and communities – and take the initiative to look after ourselves and each other.”

The action plan is informed by recommendations from people with personal experience of mental health issues as well as top level academic research.

The West Midlands Mental Health Commission Citizens Jury, a panel of people with personal experience of mental health issues, has helped to shape plans for future care provision in a new partnership approach.

Citizens Jury member Holly Moyse, aged 23, said it had been a great pleasure to help achieve the Action Plan.

She said: “It has been a fantastic opportunity to meet new people from various backgrounds and to work together to change attitudes towards mental health.

“As members of the Citizens Jury, we have worked extremely hard by pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones and taking on many challenges such as public speaking.

“We all felt that with the right building blocks and information that our recommendations should be taken on board and we would like to thank the WMCA for allowing us to be a part of this project as it gave us the chance to voice our opinions and to have our views listened to.

“We are continuing to work as a group (now known as The West Midlands Cooperative) to make sure these actions are implemented.”

WMCA has commissioned research into poor mental health and its impact on the public sector – notably by the Health Services Management Centre at the University of Birmingham, in partnership with the Centre for Mental Health.

That research will be presented alongside the action plan next Tuesday (Jan 31) at the launch event at Warwickshire County Cricket Club, Edgbaston, Birmingham.

There will be live streaming of the launch on Facebook Live. People can follow the broadcast on the day from 12noon at www.facebook.com/westmidlandsca/

Join the conversation on Twitter on the day with #ThriveWM on @WestMids_CA