Time to tackle the stigma of mental health problems, as charities back Miliband speech

Above, Alan Askew of Aylesbury Vale Advocates. Below, Rob Michael-Phillips of Bucks Mind
Above, Alan Askew of Aylesbury Vale Advocates. Below, Rob Michael-Phillips of Bucks Mind

Labour leader Ed Miliband’s speech claiming mental health issues are a ‘taboo which must be broken’ has been welcomed by charities across Bucks.

Speaking to the Royal College of Psychiatrists this week, Mr Miliband said conditions such as depression ‘tend to be brushed under the carpet’ in workplaces while ‘teachers and our parents are unlikely to talk to us about mental illness when we are young’.

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The comments have been backed by Alan Askew, the manager of Aylesbury Vale Advocates which helps sufferers access the support which is available to them.

He said: “I remember accompanying one of my clients to an appointment with a doctor, who turned to him and said there’s no need to be paranoid about this.

“I said he suffers from paranoia, but the doctor didn’t react or say anything.

“He just wrote a note and carried on, it was almost as though I had made a flippant remark.”

Mr Askew claims many organisations do not treat mental health problems as a genuine condition.

He cites a recent example where a person was declared fit to work by an assessor who admitted to having no training in mental health issues.

Mr Askew, who has won 15 of his last 16 mental health-related benefit-refusal appeals, said: “At appeal often they take one look at the person – obviously you can’t always see a mental health issue, but they are aware of the way the person speaks or acts – and say they shouldn’t be in the work place.”

Rob Michael-Phillips, chief executive of the Buckinghamshire Mind charity, said: “I’m delighted that a senior politician and someone who is a possible future Prime Minister has made a commitment to making mental health as big an issue as physical disabilities.

“I think Mr Miliband was right when he says there’s a huge change that can be made by this generation in changing attitudes towards mental health issues – in the way that past generations did with racism or homophobia.”

“The biggest problem with the stigma attached to mental health is that it stops people from coming forward.

“What you don’t want is people not accessing support because they are worried about what people will say.”

For more details visit either www.av-advocates.org.uk or www.bucksmind.org.uk