Mental ill health touches most families – including my own. The impact can be devastating and can have a knock-on effect on the whole family. During my time as Member of Parliament for North Norfolk, I was horrified at the number of cases I came across of young people who had been badly let down by NHS mental health services in Norfolk – in some cases teenagers having to wait a year before their first appointment for treatment. Waiting times for autism diagnosis are even worse.
That is why last year, I launched a Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund with my wife, Mary, through the brilliant Norfolk Community Foundation with the aim of supporting grassroots organisations across Norfolk who do vital work to improve the lives of children, teenagers and young adults with mental ill health, learning disabilities and autism, despite such limited financial support. We want to focus on prevention and early support to prevent deterioration of health.
Last August, we put in £10,000 to get the fund started and it has now reached £130,000. We have set an objective of raising £1,000,000 so that we could establish an endowment fund in order to offer lasting benefit.
Alongside the fund, we plan to work with the University of East Anglia in order to ensure that we focus on what works – an evidence-based approach.
We also want to build greater collaboration and improved capacity amongst the organisations we support so as to again improve effectiveness. Our aim is to try to build an exemplar in Norfolk to demonstrate to the rest of the country how community-based organisations can be assisted to offer more effective support.
We now, of course, are all having to face the consequences of coronavirus – which poses not only policy and financial challenges, but as the days and weeks of this lockdown pass, I grow increasingly concerned about the longer-term psychological impact of what so many people are going through. Lost jobs, businesses built up through years of toil, on the brink, incomes dried up, loved ones lost. For younger people a growing sense of a more uncertain future, cancelled exams, loss of physical contact with friends. And don’t forget those who are already dealing with mental ill health. Many will be experiencing heightened anxiety.
The physical consequences of coronavirus are serious and life threatening, but it is vital that we do not overlook the psychological impact in the months and years ahead.
Mental health is something which we all have a stake in – now more than ever. We need to gear ourselves up as a society for how we respond. Government must start planning for this, but the public coffers will be severely strained. Local authorities will also be under massive financial pressure. So, we will need a community response as well. We will all have our part to play in offering mutual support to one another and I believe we have got it within ourselves to make a difference and to change things around.
more information about the Sir Norman Lamb Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund or to make a donation, please go to https://www.norfolkfoundation.com/giving-philanthropy/mental-health/ or email Jamiekowalyk@norfolkfoundation.com.
Sir Norman Lamb.was Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for North Norfolk from 2001 to 2019. He served as Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health from 2006 to 2017 and was a candidate for party leader in 2015. A former Minister of State for Care and Support and Chair of the Science and Technology Select Committee, Norman now runs his own Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund. He Tweets @normanlamb.