We’re calling on the next Government to prioritise people’s mental health after our latest Public Perceptions Survey revealed that more than three quarters of respondents say their mental health has been impacted by the cost of living crisis.

This shocking statistic was revealed at our Cost of Living Roundtable discussion held at the Labour party conference in Liverpool Macmillan, co-hosted with Kooth and IPPR. 

Access to mental health services 

The discussion, taking place on World Mental Health Day, focused on the pressing need to improve people’s access to mental health services and highlighted the role that counsellors and psychotherapists can play in addressing these needs.

While we continue to call on the current government to increase mental health investment and expand the therapy workforce, with a general election due to happen in 2024, we must also target political parties who may form the next government so mental health is a priority for them. We are urging all political parties to prioritise mental health in their manifestos.

Ewan Irvine, our Trustee and speaking at the discussion, said: “The pandemic and ongoing cost of living crisis has delivered an ongoing toxic legacy of changing circumstances, growing financial and job insecurity, isolation, bereavement, and prolonged uncertainty which has damaged the nation’s mental health.

“We know the mental health of the nation is getting worse while demand for mental health services are growing. We need a complete rethink in terms of providing earlier intervention to help support problems before they become a crisis - and counselling and psychotherapy can and should play a much greater role across a range of settings.”

Other speakers at the event included: Liz Twist MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Suicide and Self Harm Prevention and Luciana Berger, CEO of iNHouse Communications, former Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Vice President of British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and Kate Newhouse, COO of Kooth. The event was Chaired by Chris Thomas, Head of the Commission on Health and Prosperity at IPPR and attracted high profile representatives from leading mental health charities and providers as well as from across the health, education and third sectors

Impact of the cost of living crisis

The discussion was the second in a series of roundtable events to help BACP understand the impact the cost-of-living crisis on the mental health on of the nation and the specific challenges facing some communities and groups. Information from these events will be used to gather evidence and insight to produce a broader report which will be launched next year.

Kate Newhouse, Chief Operating Officer of Kooth Digital Health and keynote speaker, said Kooth was proud to join with BACP to host the conversation exploring mental health provision and role of mental health services during the cost of living crisis.

She added: “We all recognised it is a vicious cycle with a long road ahead of us but a holistic approach to mental health service delivery will lead to a better system that allows us to meet individuals where they are, especially during these challenging times.”

We know that people are crying out for more support. Results from our survey of the public highlighted that 68% of people think that addressing mental health should be a priority for government. Only 14% of people felt the UK government has done enough to support people’s mental health.

Labour's mental health commitments 

Labour made several commitments to mental health during their conference this week.

We welcome their focus on reducing pressure on the NHS by investing in early interventions and ensuring problems are addressed before they become a crisis and pledge to increase the mental health workforce.

We’re pleased that Labour has committed to two issues on which we have long campaigned with our partners. Improving mental health support for children and young people by having professional counsellors available in all secondary schools and funding youth mental health hubs to meet the growing mental health crisis facing our children and young people.

Although we were also pleased that Sir Kier Starmer guaranteed mental health treatment for all when required in his party conference speech, we know that nearly half of our members describe their practice as already overcapacity. Tackling this crisis will take much more investment in easily accessible high quality mental health services across a range of settings that provide earlier intervention, free at the point of need.

To achieve this we need to remove of some of the barriers that prevent highly qualified and experienced counsellors and psychotherapists entering the mental health workforce.
Unfortunately, right now opportunities are limited and the focus is often on recruiting to new roles rather than using our readily available and highly skilled membership of 57,000 across England.