Care minister Norman Lamb has pledged to put mental health on a par with physical health in a recent visit to the Solihull branch of the Samaritans.
The move comes after we reported last week that the Solihull branch of the Samaritans takes more than 30,000 calls a year from depressed and suicidal people.
During his visit, Mr Lamb spoke to volunteers about how mental health had affected his own family and explained his waiting times targets for mental health treatment.
The Liberal Democrat minister also praised prospective MP Lorely Burt’s campaign for more mental health beds in the borough.
Volunteers quizzed Mr Lamb about his views on mental health and discussed their own experiences of helping distressed people in Solihull.
The branch, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, is desperately in need for more volunteers to cope with the increasing volume of calls – or it may have to close for one afternoon of the week.
“It was a privilege for me to meet the hard-working Samaritans volunteers who literally save people’s lives in Solihull,” the care minister said.
“Equal treatment for mental and physical healthcare has been my personal mission as a Minister and I know Lorely is passionate about this, too, because she raised this herself in parliament.
“I was delighted when her campaign for more local mental health beds succeeded.
“We need to end the stigma and discrimination that have held back mental healthcare. The Liberal Democrats would commit £3.5 billion more funding to mental health in the next parliament, improve access to talking therapies and work to keep vulnerable people who are unwell out of police cells.”
Hilary Harrison, director of Solihull Samaritans, added: “It was great to introduce Norman and Lorely to our volunteers.
“On average, we respond to one call every ten minutes at our branch alone. Our callers, who are usually in distress or despair, value the opportunity to talk to our team of volunteers about how they are feeling and the problems they are struggling with – and it is a privilege for us to listen to them.”