It’s Time to Talk about mental health

Time to Talk Day 2015Today is Time to Talk Day. I’m glad that in recent  years, it seems that we’re more able to talk about mental health, accept it as a real problem that people struggle with, and as a whole we’re getting less judgemental about it.

I’ve personally suffered with anxiety and depression. I resisted taking medication for years, thinking that I didn’t want to see the world through rose-tinted glasses. One day,  a friend sat me down and pointed out that I was already seeing the world through the filter of my depression, and that medication and counselling were like glasses to correct, not obscure, my view of the world.

The medication was the crutch I needed to learn to be kinder to myself. I can do more as a political activist with that understanding than I could before. I’ve studied meditation and other mindful techniques to allow me to think clearly and not panic – a skill I believe is useful in politics as well!

But it’s not just about me – many of my friends and loved ones have also had problems with mental health. It’s not unusual, and lots of other people do. I do my best to help others, whether it’s practical assistance, some friendly advice or a shoulder to cry on.

I’m hoping that by talking about it, by putting myself forward for public office while being open about the problems I’ve faced and still face,  I can help to normalise it and bring it further into daily conversation and debate.

As a Liberal Democrat I’m particularly proud of the work we’ve achieved in Government, and our minister Norman Lamb MP.  We realise that to build a stronger economy and fairer society, we must treat mental health as seriously as physical health. That’s why we’ve increased funding for mental health, and introduced maximum waiting times for mental health too.

Even some of our non-obvious policies benefit mental health – growing up with nobody to talk to,  the Internet was the first place I could reach out to people and discuss mental health with them. Our funding for broadband will help others do the same. Our income tax cuts for low and middle earners means more money in your pocket and less worry. Free school meals and the Pupil Premium are helping students get on with study regardless of their background.

Yes, there’s further to go on mental health, and I am sure the Liberal Democrats will do more. As our economy continues to grow, thanks to the Lib Dems holding back the Tories’ reckless desire to cut, while tackling the problems that Labour still deny, there will be more funding available to deliver this. It’s clear that with the Liberal Democrats in Government, the future is a little brighter for those of us in Manchester Gorton with mental health concerns.

UMSU Welcome Fair

The 2014 UMSU Welcome Fair stall from Liberal Youth
The 2014 UMSU Welcome Fair stall from Liberal Youth

I’ve spent the last couple of afternoons at the Welcome Fair laid on by the University of Manchester Students’ Union, on a stall with Liberal Youth. It’s been a good and positive experience – lots of people interested in the campaigns we were running on the environment and International Development, keen to hear about what we’ve delivered as part of the Government that you wouldn’t have seen under the Tories, or Labour, alone.

We’ve also got a lot of people interested in joining the Manchester Liberal Youth student society, to be invited to social meetings, political discussions, meet Lib Dem figures such as Manchester MP John Leech and party president Tim Farron, do some on-the-ground campaigning, make new friends, learn new skills and have fun. A couple also joined the national Liberal Democrats for the Freshers’s Fair discount rate of £1 for your first year!

I was also interviewed live for Fuse FM, the UMSU radio station – I’ll see if I can grab a clip and post it here later.

It looks like we’ll have a strong student society this year with Liberal Youth’s English chair-elect, Matt Downey, involved in the running.

If you’re a student at the University of Manchester, you can join UMSU’s Liberal Youth society online here. If you’re a student at Manchester Met or Salford, please get in touch with me and I’ll see what we can do for you.

20mph Limits Across Fallowfield

20 plentyThe local Liberal Democrats have campaigned for 20mph speed limits in residential areas across Manchester for some time, so it’s great to hear that they may finally be implemented in Fallowfield.

As a motorist, cyclist and pedestrian, I get to see the roads from multiple perspectives, and I’m aware that a 20mph zone can make a big difference to traffic speeds and make the roads safer for all. However, it remains to be seen how well these zones will be enforced; it’s a question for Labour’s Police & Crime Commissioner how seriously he intends to take road safety.

In any case, I am very glad that the Council has finally gotten around to acting on this Lib Dem campaign.