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Mental Heath Awareness week: The role of Parliament

by Rebecca Deegan

Like the rest of us the majority of politicians are social distancing, which means that for the first time in its history Parliament is operating both in-person and virtually. This means that the Government is still able to conduct PMQs (the weekly stand-off between the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition), hold Committee hearings and even vote. This week their activity includes hearings and publications on mental health in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Week. 

It will not surprise you to hear that this is largely focused on the impact of the measures being taken to curb the spread of Coronavirus - aka ‘lockdown’.

On Monday Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, spoke about the mental health of frontline NHS staff (there is a link to a report below); and the Shadow Secretary of State, Johnathon Ashworth, raised the growing mental health burden on young people as a result of the lockdown. 

Young people are missing out on schooling, social interaction with their peers and sometimes us ‘adults’ forget that young people worry just as much as us, if not more, about society and major global issues (hence the climate strikes).

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness, and one of the most uplifting things I’ve experienced during lockdown is the way that communities are coming together to look after one another. Maybe you’ve done some shopping for a neighbour, displayed a rainbow in your window and clapped as loud as you can for key workers on a Thursday evening, or made an effort to call your family and friends on a regular basis. 

Mental Health Awareness Week is a chance to acknowledge that some of us are feeling anxious, low or just plain old fed-up AND to make someone’s day through an act of kindness. The ‘lockdown’ measures are not affecting us all equally, which is a major point of debate for politicians and society, so if you know someone who may be struggling more than you why not reach out and check-in.

For those of you who love politics as much as I do here is the schedule of events in Parliament that you can access via the links:

Monday - Human Rights (Joint Committee) in the House of Commons

The Government’s response to COVID-19: human rights implications

Dr Kevin Cleary, Lead for mental health and community services, Care Quality Commission

Kate Terroni, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, Care Quality Commission

Ray James CBE, Director, Learning Disabilities, NHS England and NHS Improvement

Claire Murdoch, National Director Mental Health, NHS England and NHS Improvement

House of Commons Library publishes a briefing on the impact of Coronavirus on the mental health of health and care workers

Frontline healthcare workers are at increased risk of developing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, as a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic, according to research from previous pandemics. In China, a study of healthcare workers revealed around half reported symptoms of depression and anxiety, whilst approximately one third reported insomnia. In Italy, preliminary research has found 50% of healthcare workers reported PTSD symptoms, whilst 25% had symptoms of severe depression. 

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care talks about Mental Health Awareness Week in a speech

Tuesday - Private Notice Question in the House of Lords

To ask the government what steps they are taking to protect and support mental health services during and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.

Wednesday -Women and Equalities Committee in the House of Commons

Unequal impact: Coronavirus (Covid-19) and the impact on people with protected characteristics with David Isaac CBE, Chair, Equality and Human Rights Commission and Melanie Field, Executive Director of Corporate Strategy and Policy, and Wales, Equality and Human Rights Commission

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