Robert's Weekly Swindon Advertiser Article - 19 October 2016

I was pleased to see that a variety of events took place in Swindon to mark World Mental Health Day last week. Mental Health is an issue close to my heart and I’ve done a great deal of work on this in South Swindon and in Parliament.  With 1 in 4 of us experiencing a mental health problem each year in the UK, including depression, anxiety, phobias, OCD, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and panic disorder, it is crucial that people feel able to talk about it and seek advice so that they receive the right kind of care and support.

Staff at the Great Western Hospital released bunches of ten purple balloons to begin a day of awareness raising by nurses to promote the importance of recognising patients with mental health needs and the health and wellbeing support available to staff. Across Wiltshire, people were encouraged to look out for the balloons and if they found one, to help spread the word by tagging the Trust in a picture on Facebook or Twitter.
I’m exceptionally proud to be the MP for our local hospital and extremely proud of the service it provides. As a local resident, I use the hospital and know many of the staff. I see first-hand just how hard they work, often under pressure and in the most difficult of circumstances. I was pleased that staff were offered free sessions of counselling, stress management, financial advice and a whole range of therapies to support their mental wellbeing as part of World Mental Health Day. I am also delighted that the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has signed up to the Mindful Employers charter, which represents a commitment to supporting mental health in the workplace.

In Swindon, there are many charities and organisations who work hard to support the needs of local people experiencing mental health problems. Many of these were on hand to offer advice, guidance and information about a whole range of services and groups available locally at a World Mental Health Day event held at Central Library A number of dementia information sessions were also held throughout the afternoon and evening.
Quite often, mental health conditions, particularly in children and young people, go undiagnosed, untreated or unnoticed. I’m pleased that our Government is taking positive steps to change this and put mental health on an equal footing with physical health.

The UK population is ageing rapidly, with the number of people aged 65 and over growing by nearly half in the past 30 years. People living longer is a cause for celebration, but older people are more vulnerable to mental health problems. There are over 2200 people in Swindon living with dementia – a number which is growing every year. During my time as an MP, I have spoken with many people who have been affected by the condition and learned about the major impact that dementia can have on individuals, their families and carers.

It is vital that Swindon’s communities, charities and local organisations support people living with dementia and their carers in the right way and empower them to be active members of their community.
On Friday 25th November, I will be opening a Dementia Summit here in Swindon. The event will bring together key local organisations from different sectors to discuss how we can make Swindon a more dementia friendly town. Representatives from the Swindon Dementia Action Alliance, which is a group who have come together to make Swindon a dementia friendly community, and staff from the Swindon Alzheimer’s society will be on hand to provide all of the local organisations attending with a variety of resources and advice about how they can become more dementia friendly.
I will continue to do all that I can to support people living in Swindon with mental health issues, their families and their carers.
In my role as Solicitor General, I was recently interviewed on BBC Breakfast as part of Hate Crime Awareness Week. Hate crime is defined as any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race, religion, sexual orientation or disability, as well as any crime motivated by a hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender. The Government is taking action against hate crime at every level. Back in August, a Hate Crime Action Plan was published, which included £2.4 million in funding.
I have been working hard to improve prosecutions for hate crime.  We need to ensure that victims of hate crimes are confident that these offences will be investigated and prosecuted and that they are properly supported throughout this process.