I'll vote for a government that supports people with their mental health

'People who need mental health support are really struggling,' says 25-year-old Mel Rose.

As part of its election coverage, Yahoo News is speaking to voters around the country on the issues that will sway their vote. Read more from our election 'Your Voice' series here as we get closer to polling day on 4 July.

Mel Rose wants a government that supports people with their mental health and can help with the cost-of-living. (image supplied)
Mel Rose wants a government that supports people with their mental health and can help with the cost of living crisis. (Image supplied)

It took just one nasty comment to turn Mel Rose’s world upside down.

She was just 11 when a girl at school called her ‘fat’, triggering a life-long battle with bulimia. The 25-year-old also suffers from anxiety, depression and emotional personality disorder, which can leave her ‘very, very depressed’ and has made it hard for her to hold down a full-time job.

Even going out can be a struggle for Rose, with bus trips leaving her panicky and sweaty. “We need a government that supports people with their mental health and can help with the cost of living,” Rose says. “That’s what I’ll be looking for when deciding who to vote for.”

For years, Rose had NHS therapy alongside her medication, but two years ago she was told it could no longer be funded. “All of a sudden it was ripped away with no explanation,” she says. “I was devastated because talking to someone helped keep my bulimia and feelings of anxiety at bay, and I felt my life was improving.

“I’m not the only person losing mental health support. It’s happening to a lot of my friends – people who are really struggling.”

Around 1.9 million people are waiting for NHS mental health treatment in England, according to research from the Children’s Commissioner.

Recent figures on the numbers of people in Wales waiting for mental health treatment, where Rose lives, have not been published but an investigation from ITV Wales found some children were waiting almost two years to get support with their mental health through the NHS.

Rose lives in Wrexham where health is a devolved issue but believes tackling issues with the NHS for the whole nation, especially around mental health, should be the top priority for any incoming government.

The Conservatives’ pledges around health are broad – they have vowed to reduce debt to secure the future of public services and cut waiting lists to get people NHS care they need more quickly, whereas Labour and the Liberal Democrats have been more outspoken on tackling mental health.

The Labour Party’s manifesto includes promises to reform the Mental Health Act, improve mental health services, and take a prevention-focused cross-government approach to tackle the social determinants of mental health.

Rose is supportive of all plans to improve mental health services but says if she ‘had a gun to her head’ and had to vote Liberal Democrats or Labour, Ed Davey’s party would edge it because of the promise to have a qualified mental health professional in every school and a 24/7 phone line for people to book GP appointments.

“If I had had a mental health nurse at school when I was growing up, maybe things would have been different,” she says. “But I don’t believe any of the promises politicians make. I’ll believe it when I see it.”

For a while, Rose and her parents struggled to pay for her to have private therapy, but at £75 per weekly session they couldn’t maintain it.

Rose says to hold down her part-time job as a carer for blind people she needs to stay well: “I have to stay calm because if I become stressed, the people I work with become stressed. They are in my safety. But it can be hard to keep my anxiety under control, especially without support.”

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Rose, who still struggles with her image, says taking a client swimming the other day left her ‘shaking’. She says: “Without therapy I can’t do my job but without work, I can’t afford the help I need. It’s a vicious circle.”

Though the Welsh government is responsible for how it funds healthcare, Rose says she holds central government responsible for the cost of living crisis, which is exacerbating mental health issues.

“I know many, many people using food banks and my family is cutting back on everything, like food and petrol,” she says. “Fewer car trips mean I am stuck at home more which makes me feel trapped and depressed.”

Rose isn’t the only young person affected by this issue either. More than a third of 16–34 year-olds (34%) in Wales have reported declining mental health in the past year and 84% of those surveyed said the cost of living crisis had affected their mental health, according to research by Mind Cymru.

The charity found that one in five people in Rose’s age group have had to use a food bank in the past 12 months and the statistics show high proportions of this age group feeling stressed, more anxious, depressed, lonely and with eating problems.

Dr Sarah Hughes, chief executive of Mind, responded to the news of the general election being called by saying that mental health cannot be tackled in isolation.

“The cost-of-living crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic and growing levels of poverty have put unprecedented strain on too many people," she says. “All this combined with a mental health system that is creaking under ever increasing levels of need and long waiting lists, means there is an urgent need for action.”

Mind says any incoming government needs to invest in and improve mental health services and reform the benefits system and sick pay so there is a social safety net for people with mental health problems.

It is also calling for reforms to the outdated Mental Health Act including giving people an automatic right to assessment and treatment, provide advocates for people in mental health hospitals and a test for under 16s to see if they can make decisions about their treatment

Rose has never voted before and says it is because politics hasn’t seemed relevant to her.

Figures from the Electoral Commission reveal that in the last general election in 2019 only 54% of 18–25-year-olds voted.

“I am still a reluctant voter because no one in power seems to be talking any sense,” Rose says.

“The government doesn’t seem to batter an eyelid about the mental health system or long waits at A&E and they are wasting their money on pathetic things. They need to make their policies more accessible, grab young people’s attention and make promises people will understand.”

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