On Thursday 4 February our health network ran its first event of 2016 - supporting mental health awareness - proving once again that Young Fabians are at the forefront of social change and passionate about the power of policy to improve lives.
Time to Talk day is a nationwide initiative encouraging people to have conversations about mental health and to record them online to show how speaking out can break down stigma. It’s run by Time To Change, the ambitious and successful campaign from leading mental health charities Mind and Rethink. Participants are encouraged to do anything from an in-depth event like ours, to simply asking someone how they are and catching up over coffee.
We were joined by Allison Maclean who counts being a Time To Change champion, Labour’s candidate for Kirkburton in 2015, and (perhaps most prestigiously) a former Young Fabians member amongst her achievements. The group listened as Allison shared her insights into her journey with mental ill health, including an arduous battle to get selected which saw her apply no fewer than 19 times. Allison’s open and frank stories prompted a wide-ranging, lively discussion. We covered everything from our own experiences of mental health difficulties, to the lack of provision in the Labour Party for post-election or campaign care, to the comments made by Ken Livingstone about Kevan Jones in November.
It was agreed that while we are proud of the gains the party has made in this area – not least appointing a Shadow Minister for mental health and opposing cuts to services – there’s a lot more we can do. The Labour Party is a Time To Change employer, which means it has pledged to reviewing and improving the support it provides for staff living with mental health difficulties. But Time To Change doesn’t yet have the capacity to follow up on that pledge. The party should take the lead on regular reviews, so that signing the pledge leaves a legacy and isn’t simply paying lip service to a topical issue.
Harriet Myles is a Young Fabains Member