‘MENTAL health needs more funding’ is the message Oxford City Council will send to the government.

An impassioned debate on the need for more funding for mental health services took place at Oxford City Council’s meeting on Monday night.

Councillors unanimously agreed the leader of the council should write to the health secretary, urging them to increase spending on mental health.

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They also agreed to call on a health care management group which covers Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and West Berkshire to ask people across the region their opinion on any changes to mental health care.

Speaking in support of the plan, Labour councillor Louise Upton said: “Last year in Oxford, 80 people took their own lives; mainly they were men. This is a catastrophic situation we are in.”

Her fellow Labour councillor Mike Rowley shared his own experience of trying to help a resident in his ward to access mental health care.

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Mike Rowley

Mr Rowley said: “I am sure all of us as local councillors can think of examples where we have encountered people who are not getting the support they require from the mental health system.

“I can think of someone who I tried to help, who I did help, and within the limits of confidentiality, they applied to the mental health services.”

He added: “I hope I did achieve something for that person but I did not stop that person from taking their own life. Could I have done something different? Well, I will never know.

“I do know there should be people who are in a better position to do that. It is welcome this council is pointing out the urgency and the need for a change.”

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Green councillor Dick Wolff said mental illness ‘ attacks at the very source of your quality of life.’

He added: “If we want to have good quality of life, mental health is at the top of the tree.”

Labour councillor Tom Hayes said there needed to be an emphasis on long term funding for mental health services, not just a one-off lump sum to help support people living with mental illness across the UK.

Councillor Pat Kennedy said people helping their relatives living with mental health illness needed to be given the same level of support as those caring for family with physical illnesses.

Two public speakers attended the council meeting to urge councillors to support the plan: Frances Ashworth and Cyril Foster.

Ms Ashworth is the chair of a regional committee for the charity Rethink Mental Illness.

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Oxford Town Hall

At the meeting, she said: “Letting people go into crisis because of a lack of funds is like standing by while people have the first symptoms of a heart attack, not supporting them with the right housing is asking for a relapse to happen.

“Discharging them when you know they are still ill is playing with fire.”

Though councillors across the political spectrum were happy to support the motion, the upcoming general election will have an effect on their plan to send a letter to the government.

This letter is likely to be sent to the new government after the December 12 vote.