Mental health chief takes May to task

The chief executive of Jami calls for greater emphasis on early intervention and education


The head of the community's major mental health charity has warned that Theresa May's plans to improve support in schools and among young adults must be adequately funded.

Laurie Rackind, chief executive of Jami, was pleased the Prime Minister highlighted the need for early intervention when outlining a package of measures across schools, workplaces and communities in an speech on Monday.

But after a decade at Jami, Mr Rackind has become frustrated at unfulfilled government promises on addressing a growing mental health crisis, with statistics suggesting one-in-four people will be affected by a mental health issue in any given year.

“Governments of all persuasions like to bring up mental health and talk about parity of esteem — the idea mental health must be treated in exactly the same way as physical health,” Mr Rackind said.

“We are delighted there is talk of training and resources being put into schools, and of early intervention.

“But while they may be putting more money into the system, we are not seeing it where we really need it. What little resources are available are, in the main, channelled into crisis care, despite all the evidence of the health and socio-economic benefits of early intervention and education and awareness.

“It’s a false economy not to have the resources in place.”

Mr Rackind added that the PM’s proposals incorporated ideas Jami has been developing over the past few years, such as “mental health first aid” in schools.

“We have been providing this for some time — in fact, we have taken it one stage further. As well as providing training for staff, for school counsellors and heads of year, we have also started training for students.

“We want to build a capacity where you have peer-to-peer relationships. Students who are struggling to cope are much more likely to talk to other students, rather than go to teachers.

“As these year 12s go on to be year 13s, and then on to university, where they can continue to offer help, we build that capability.”

Jami’s services have increased ten-fold over the past decade. Yet it relies on voluntary funding for 98 per cent of its income.

“We can only achieve what we do because of community funding,” Mr Rackind stressed.

“We can demonstrate cutting-edge, forward-thinking initiatives such as our Head Room café in Golders Green. The café provides a cool, welcoming space people want to go to. We are showing how to bring mental health to the high street and we are asking the community to engage.”

Through Jami’s recent admission to the Jewish Leadership Council, Mr Rackind hopes a meeting can be arranged with government representatives to discuss the mental health situation.

“We need an environment that helps, not hinders, mental health recovery.

“Among younger adults there is much more understanding of issues relating to mental health. Among the older generation, there’s still an reluctance to talk about issues. But if younger people are talking, the future’s bright.”


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