Lewes councillors have unanimously backed calls for the council to do more to promote positive mental health.
The calls came as part of a notice of motion put forward by Green councillor Sean MacLeod (Ouse Valley and Ringmer) at a full council meeting last Wednesday (September 25).
In his motion, Cllr MacLeod called on Lewes District Council to work with local partners to tackle discrimination and support positive mental health in the community.
Cllr MacLeod said: “One-in-four people in the UK experience a mental health problem in any given year and the World Health Organisation predicts that by 2020 depression will be the second most common condition worldwide.
“As the local authority, we have a crucial role to play in improving the mental health of everyone in our community and to help tackle some of the widest and most entrenched inequalities in health.
“Mental health should be a priority across all of the local authority and our areas of responsibility.
“All councillors – whether members of cabinet or scrutiny and in our community and case worker roles – can play a positive role in championing mental health on an individual and strategic basis. It is vitally important that we play our part.”
The motion saw the council agree to sign up to the Local Authority Mental Health Challenge.
Set up by the Centre for Mental Health in partnership with a number of others, the challenge is intended to encourage local authorities to take a proactive approach to the issues of mental health.
As a result, Lewes District Council joins a network of more than 100 county, unitary, borough and district councils in England, which are working to support positive mental health.
It also calls on the authority to appoint both a councillor as a mental health champion and a staff member as lead officer for mental health. The councillor champion will be Cllr MacLeod.
The motion received the unanimous support of the council, although some councillors spoke about areas where they would like to see the council do more.
They included Cllr Nancy Bikson (Con, Wivelsfield) asked that those taking on the lead member and mental health roles be given both formal training on the subject and support from others to ensure they are not asked to do too much.
Cllr Liz Boorman (Con, Seaford West), meanwhile, asked for a member of a mental health awareness group be found to join the council’s equal ties and fairness stakeholders group. This would help the council when shaping its policies, Cllr Boorman said.
The council also heard from Newhaven North councillor Julie Carr (Lib Dem), who asked for training to be available to all Lewes councillors in future.
Cllr Carr said: “I think this is an excellent motion and certainly much needed.
“It is quite shocking when you look at the statistics of people suffering from mental health issues and they range from school children right through the education system. It goes right through to elderly people, who suffer as well.
“I totally support this. What I would like to do is request, once things have been established, we have a briefing for all members.
“We all deal with case work or are contacted by people who live in our areas. I think the more training we have and the more aware we are of where we can point people to then the better we can serve our constituents.”