Liberal Democrat party leader, Nick Clegg, promises dramatic changes to mental healthcare in the UK. But, Deborah Barber asks, what is the potential impact – especially on students?

Nick Clegg (photo) has recently announced his campaign to create treatment equality between mental and physical health, with plans to raise mental health funding by almost £120 million over the next five years // Credit: Alex Folkes/Fishnik Photography
Nick Clegg (photo) has recently announced his campaign to create treatment equality between mental and physical health, with plans to raise mental health funding by almost £120 million over the next five years // Credit: Alex Folkes/Fishnik Photography

It’s not often that mental health comes to the forefront of the political agenda. So it came as a surprise when the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, announced his ambitious campaign to create treatment equality between mental and physical health. By increasing mental healthcare funding by £120 million over the next five years, we could see massive reductions in the time people must wait before accessing vital treatments.

Sufferers of depression and anxiety would receive treatment within 6 weeks, and those with psychosis within a fortnight under Clegg’s targets. A survey by Mind revealed that a fifth must wait for over a year to receive any psychological therapies; with a study by the NUS finding that 20% of students suffer from mental illness, this is an issue that affects us all. Someone suffering from a physical aliment would not have to wait, therefore mental healthcare improvements, such as those Mr Clegg is proposing, are absolutely crucial. The question is, can Clegg deliver?

“I do think it’s unrealistic, and I still doubt how much of an impact it will have. Two weeks is still a long time for someone suffering from psychosis. Would he [Nick Clegg] put any other measures in place, or are we left to look after ourselves while waiting?” says Sarah*, a 20-year-old UWE student. “I think people are scared of mental health. It’s invisible. I don’t know if it’s underfunded – but it is certainly understaffed and misunderstood.”

Whether or not Clegg’s proposals are realistic in the current economic climate, it is clear that something has to be done to improve services for both the current and future generations. Mental health isn’t a second-class illness – it affects the lives of millions across the nation, and as such should be treated seriously.

*Name changed to protect identity

By Deborah Barber