Five Year Mental Health plan will be our legacy

The vice chair of the Mental Health Taskforce, Jacqui Dyer, explains why today’s report is so vital:

This journey to co-create the Mental Health Five Year Forward View with experts from all walks of life has been amazing.

I have worked with people across many sectors who I have found to be committed, open, genuine and fundamentally humane. I am humbled by the energy to seriously attend to mental health issues we’re facing in the NHS and across society.

In my experience as a carer, and as a woman using services, I have noted the ever increasing fragmented nature of mental health care over the past few decades. At one of my worst points my sibling could not access a service to stabilise an ongoing crisis that exacerbated over three years.

The ongoing absence of access to psychological therapies was stark and the emphasis on medication disheartening. What he really needed for his recovery was a package of care including ongoing support to manage his condition and access to 24/7 crisis care or good quality acute care at home when he needed it.

The impact of the lack of appropriate care in a mental health crisis is difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t been through it – it’s like living in hell with no prospects on the horizon to alleviate the strain. It creates enormous stress on each family member – for the individual experiencing a mental health problem, carer, parents, siblings to their children, family friends and neighbours. Everyone experiences the impact of the absence of appropriate services.

This is why our Taskforce recommendations are vital.

I am privileged to have helped lead our engagement work, and I have been valued, as an expert with lived experience, in shaping our recommendations off the back of the tens of thousands of voices who spoke out about their priorities for change.

Personally, I could have made no better contribution and in honour to my brother who died 20 years earlier than his counterparts who did not suffer with severe mental illness. When I reflect on what my brother went through, I often wonder if care across the NHS had been designed and implemented way back then, as we have recommended in our report – if my brother would be here with us today. What if we had had greater scrutiny then of the quality of service commissioning, and whether or not services were providing the right care? Of particular significance to his story, and to countless others, is the disconnected process of the care people experience in trying to have their physical and mental health treated equally well.

As an African Caribbean family we have often felt the lack of understanding of our needs, which are often dismissed as cultural needs which the services say they do not understand. In this regard our health service needs to improve and embrace the notion of being a learning organisation.

The gap in addressing the physical health needs for black and minority ethnical individuals is particularly pronounced, contributing to the shocking 15-20 year early mortality gap – which is why I’m thrilled that tackling these kinds of inequalities is threaded through our recommendations.

I miss my brother deeply and yet with his memory in mind, and the leadership and commitment of the countless individuals and organisation, I am hopeful that many will not share his tragic experience as we forge ahead in transforming mental health care across the NHS.

We know the current imbalance towards late rather than early intervention is financially unsustainable and morally reprehensible and so I’m thrilled that the NHS, each arm’s length body with health responsibilities – and Government – have responded so positively in their response to our call to action.

The Five Year Forward View and NHS Mandate are driving change. The ground is fertile, with unprecedented political and public support, and I’m delighted that NHS England has backed our Taskforce recommendations. It is with great urgency that we now have to work together to implement them.

I am confident that this coming decade will see support for people with mental health problems transformed into care worthy of our people, which truly values our physical and mental health equally. Quite rightly, the individuals and families who experience mental health challenges will be at the centre of this change process – we have been and will continue to be – and I personally will not falter until this vision realised. We all have our role to play.

As a result of this investment, one million more children, young people and adults of all ages experiencing mental health problems will benefit from access to high quality care each year by 2020/21.

I can think of no better legacy in honour of my brother.

Jacqui Dyer

Jacqui Dyer is an independent health and social care consultant with a background in adult mental health commissioning as well as community and family social work.

Jacqui has worked with a wide range of vulnerable care groups and has a strong passion in grass roots community empowerment. As an experienced counsellor, trainer, personal and professional development coach and group facilitator, Jacqui brings many dimensions to her insights.

As a mental service user and carer for the past few decades Jacqui’s experiential knowledge of mental health services is extensive and her commitment to this agenda is personal, political and professional. Currently she is a senior management board lived experience advisor for the ‘Time To Change’ anti-stigma and discrimination campaign. Additionally Jacqui was an appointed member of the Ministerial Advisory Group for Mental Health chaired by the Minister for Care and Support, which oversaw the implementation of the national mental health strategy and a member of the Ministerial Advisory Group for Mental Health.

Jacqui was vice chair of England’s mental health Taskforce, which collaboratively developed the 5 Year Forward View for Mental Health. Jacqui is currently the Mental Health Equalities advisor for NHS England and co-chairs the Mayoral ‘Thrive London’ programme.

Jacqui is also an elected Lambeth Labour Councillor where she is cabinet member for health and adult social care and is the chair of Lambeth’s Black Thrive; a partnership for improving black mental health and wellbeing.

Jacqui is also an advisory panel member of the Mental Health Act Review and co-chair of its African & Caribbean Working Group (MHARAC).