A South Asian family are sat on a sofa, with two generations of the family present. An elderly man in an orange shirt sits next to a woman wearing a vibrant blue patterned dress, another member of the family is sat on the floor with her arm resting on the thigh of the woman in a blue patterned shirt. They are having a conversation and spending quality time together in a relaxed setting.

Election must encourage respect, participation and mentally healthier policies

23 May 2024
By Ed Davie
Ed Davie

A general election should be an opportunity to support people who may sometimes feel powerless to have their say. When people feel they have power over their lives and in their communities, they are at less risk of mental ill health. And too often people living with mental health problems are sidelined and silenced in political debate, and even used inappropriately as targets for political attacks, and illnesses are weaponised as slurs against opponents.

If politicians and the media choose to put the public’s mental health first, including in how they conduct election campaigns, and foreground evidence-based policies backed up by investment and good governance, they can improve mental health. In doing so they can reduce illness, misery, death and the £300 billion a year cost of mental ill health in England alone.

In a bid to support a ‘mentally healthier election’, Centre for Mental Health is making three recommendations we hope politicians, the media and other organisations can get behind:

  1. Respect: When politicians or commentators use mental health-based insults or terminology as slurs and metaphors, or suggest mentally unwell people may be exaggerating or malingering, they risk increasing stigma, delaying access to treatment and worsening outcomes. Similarly, attacks on other marginalised groups such as refugees, asylum seekers and the LGBT+ community can increase mental ill health among groups that already have higher rates of depression, severe mental illness, and suicide. By treating everyone, including candidates and campaigners, with respect, we can enhance rather than harm mental health.
  2. Participation: Some people, including people with mental health difficulties, young people and people from racialised communities, face higher barriers to voting, standing as candidates and taking part in political activity. Major efforts need to be made to ensure everyone knows their rights as a citizen, has the correct voter ID if they are voting in person, is registered to vote, and encouraged to take part in the election. We will be sharing more about this topic between now and election day.
  3. Adopt policies for A Mentally Healthier Nation. Centre for Mental Health has brought together over 70 organisations concerned about mental health to develop a set of cross-government mental health policies to be delivered over the next decade in a report called A Mentally Healthier Nation. We are inviting people to contact their candidates for the election and ask them to commit to helping deliver them if they are elected. By entering your postcode here, you can find your candidates and their contact details (not all candidates have been selected yet) and we encourage you to write to them and ask them to support our Manifesto for a Mentally Healthier Nation.

Please also do what you can to ensure everyone you know, including mental health service users and carers, are registered to vote, have the correct ID and/or sign up for a postal or proxy vote:

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