Celebrities, politicians and sport stars back mental health campaign

Image here - Danny Boyle said he had "no hesitation" in signing up to the campaign. Image contributed
Image here - Danny Boyle said he had "no hesitation" in signing up to the campaign. Image contributed

Key figures from the worlds of entertainment, sport, politics, the media and the military are backing a call for more to be done to tackle mental illness in the UK.

Film director Danny Boyle, screenwriter Richard Curtis, Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew and General Sir Peter Wall, former head of the British Army and president of Combat Stress, are the latest names to back the Equality for Mental Health Campaign.

More than 200 people have now signed an open letter to the Government calling for greater help. It comes help within days of the campaign's launch by Lib Dem former mental health minister Norman Lamb, Time to Change ambassador and former Labour government communications director Alastair Campbell, and former Conservative cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell.

Boyle said he had "no hesitation" in signing up to the campaign stating: "For too long mental health and mental illness have been surrounded by stigma and taboo and I will support anything that strips that away.

"There cannot be anyone alive who doesn't know someone who has some kind of mental illness and yet it does not get the same understanding or support as physical illness. That is an injustice that harms so many lives."

Pardew noted that even though there has been "big changes" in attitudes to the issues during his lifetime in professional sport "we still have a long way to go before we can say physical and mental health are seen in the same way".

He said: "Most people will know someone with a mental health issue and yet it still lags behind physical health when it comes to government spending and general public attitudes. I am more than happy to support this campaign."

Campaigners would like to see increased investment in the provision of mental health services and are urging people to sign up on social media using the hashtag #Equality4MentalHealth and via the website Equality4MentalHealth.uk.

Lack of access to treatment, long waiting times, inadequate crisis care and use of police cells are some of their concerns. The campaign has been launched ahead of the Government's spending round.

Faith leaders including the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Dr Shuja Shafi of the Muslim Council of Britain are among the signatories, along with singer Annie Lennox, screenwriter Jimmy McGovern, presenter Graham Norton, comedian Ruby Wax and actress Emma Thompson.

High-profile business figures including architect Lord Richard Rogers, Sir Martin Sorrell and Delia Smith have pledged their support along with Falklands hero Simon Weston and classicist Mary Beard.

Former rower Sir Steve Redgrave, along with ex-cricketers Marcus Trescothick, Graeme Fowler and Mike Brearley and singer Frankie Bridge are also among the signatories.

Mr Lamb, Mr Campbell and Mr Mitchell have each had their own or family mental health issues.

Mr Lamb said: "People with mental health problems have always been seen as second class citizens. It's an historic injustice which has to end."

Mr Campbell said: "This is an issue whose time has come. The range of people now giving their active backing to a cause that used to be so taboo nobody would talk about indicates that if we can keep up the momentum, a tipping point can come."

Mr Mitchell said: "We all know people with mental health problems and it is time they had the same levels of understanding, support and treatment as people with physical health problems. We believe this will lead to long-term savings for the economy."

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "We fully welcome this campaign and the attention it brings to an area in which we have invested more money than ever before.

"We have made great strides in the way that we think about, and treat, mental health in this country. Whether it is our talking therapies reaching more than three million people, the police working with mental health nurses to aid those in crisis, or school counsellors helping young people with eating disorders, we are making good progress.

"But we are committed to doing more. This campaign can play a vital role and we are making sure everyone has the care they need when they need it, seven days a week."