On Friday 1 December, UEA’s Liberal Democrat society hosted a talk on mental health with Norman Lamb, the MP for North Norfolk who served as the Minister of State for Care and Support from 2012-15.
Concrete caught up with the MP to find out more about his views on mental health.
Mr Lamb, who describes himself as a champion for mental health awareness, spoke about his own experiences with mental health, alongside the regional and national picture. “There is quite a gap between the rhetoric and the reality of what’s going on,” he said.
“The money often doesn’t get through to mental health and it always tends to lose out to physical health services.”
He continued: “[There are] a lot of increasing pressures on young people in particular, and the services that we have at the moment are not adequate to meet the needs of people.”
Though Mr Lamb is no longer a health minister, he remains an advocate for mental health issues primarily because he has experienced the detrimental effects of mental illness in his own life.
In 2015 Mr Lamb’s older sister, Catherine, took her life. “The nightmare is that for some [people with mental illnesses], they find they can’t wait, and too many people take their own lives waiting for services.” Lamb’s son, Archie, is 29 and suffers from OCD.
During the talk, Mr Lamb addressed how mental health issues ,like OCD, are often trivialised in society. “People think it’s just being a bit orderly about things,” he said to the crowd. “But it is in fact about obsessing over dark, distressing thoughts.” Lamb went on to explain his experiences of seeking treatment for his son.
“I was told by our GP that the wait to be seen on the NHS would be six months.” This caused Lamb to seek private treatment, which he said is unfair. “Anyone who could afford it would have done the same, but those who can’t are left waiting.”
Concrete asked Mr. Lamb about his views on mental health services at UEA. Some students say the Students’ Support Service (SSS) is stretched. In April this year, the university announced they would be closing the School of Education and Lifelong Learning’s Counselling teaching programme.
“Obviously, the university has to respond to this reduction in service, and indeed the inadequacy of the current service to make sure that there is sufficient support for students,” said Mr Lamb.
He added: “I think universities need to understand that they have a responsibility for their students’ welfare.
It’s not just about the delivery of an academic education. Students are paying £9,000 in fees and I think there’s an obligation on the universities to step up to the plate.”
During the talk, a student asked Mr Lamb whether he thought higher education institutes or the NHS should provide features of mental health provision like counselling therapy.
Mr Lamb said: “Universities UK, the representative body, sort of accepts the importance of supporting students with mental health issues. If Universities UK are saying universities should step up to the plate, then what are you doing UEA to meet that responsibility?”
When asked about claims that the Liberal Democrats failed to resist austerity measures which negatively affected mental health provisions, Mr. Lamb said: “I was operating at a time when the money wasn’t flowing into the NHS. But there is a long debate to be had about how this country should have responded to the financial position we were in in 2010.
“I think we made mistakes, but overall we were a good influence and I think you can tell the absence of the Lib Dems in the government now.”
Connor Bell, the President of UEA’s Liberal Democratic Society, told Concrete he thought “having [Norman Lamb] down was an excellent idea and he really portrayed the issues that metal health can have on people. Overall the event went well.”