Governments should focus on mental, physical health equally, U.K. MP says

It’s not only morally wrong but it’s economically stupid for governments not to put mental heath care on the same tier as physical health, says British MP Norman Lamb.

Lamb, an advocate for parity between mental and physical health care in England, was a keynote speaker at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s B4Stage4: Changing The Way We Think About Mental Health and Addictions at the Victoria Conference Centre on Monday.

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The conference, which concludes Wednesday, focuses on the theme of prevention and early intervention in mental health and addictions. Similar to treating cancer, the idea is that action is taken before the disease becomes Stage 4 — when it threatens to become terminal.

Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, says people with mental illness “suffer a great injustice in our society — and I suspect it’s the same in Canada as it is in the United Kingdom — when they don’t get the same access to treatment, when they suffer stigma and disadvantage in a whole host of ways.”

Lamb wants to kick off a “growing movement” where people with mental illness have the same right to quality care and intervention as those with critical physical illnesses.

“It’s an historic mission and I think we’re making some progress now, but we’ve got a long way to go,” said Lamb.

The B4Stage4 campaign aims to do the same in Canada.

Lamb played a leading role in driving mental health care to the top of the political agenda while he was minister of state for care and support in the U.K.

He secured government endorsement of maximum waiting time standards for mental health and was the architect of the U.K.’s Crisis Care Concordat — a national agreement between emergency services that saw a 50 per cent reduction in the use of police calls during mental health crises and tripled the number of people getting access to psychological therapies.

Every year, mental health and addiction costs the B.C. economy an estimated $6.6 billion, according to the B.C. Health Ministry.

The conference on Monday included opening speakers Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, B.C. Deputy Health minister Stephen Brown and legislature Speaker Linda Reid.

The conference also included a panel on the addiction crisis in B.C.

In B.C., it is predicted 750 people will die from an overdose by the end of this year, according to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

Included in that talk were Michael Pond and Maureen Palmer, authors of the book Wasted: An Alcoholic Therapist's Fight For Recovery in a Flawed Treatment System.

Pond had a career helping others struggling with addiction until he lost everything to his own addiction to alcohol. When abstinence-based treatment programs didn’t help, he and partner Maureen Palmer looked for other evidence-based treatments.

For more information: www.b4stage4.ca
Conference-goers can register online or at the event.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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