The country’s approach to mental health needs to change, according to candidates standing to be MPs in Harrow.

Those hoping to be elected to Parliament on December 12 spoke about the subject at a hustings event organised by charity Mind in Harrow on Thursday (November 28).

There was unanimous agreement that the wider issue of mental health needs greater engagement, as candidates outlined their parties’ policies on the matter.

Gareth Thomas, who has served as MP for Harrow West since 1997, was joined by Labour colleague Cllr Pamela Fitzpatrick.

The Liberal Democrats were represented by Adam Bernard and Lisa-Maria Bornemann, while Richard Jones was there on behalf of the Brexit Party.

The Conservatives did not attend – Dr Anwara Ali had to drop out at short notice due to NHS commitments – but did provide written answers to some pre-prepared questions.

Cllr Fitzpatrick said years of austerity have resulted in increased levels of mental illness in Harrow and called for a “fairer system” under a Labour government.

“We need greater access to mental health services at the right time, and the current system contributes to mental health issues,” she said.

“People are struggling for housing. The benefits system is set up to punish the most vulnerable. The bedroom tax, universal credit – all of these things have led to increased panic and anxiety.”

Mr Bernard agreed that access to mental health services needs to improve and said the Liberal Democrats would raise income tax by 1p to help tackle this.

He believes mental health should be viewed in the same way as physical health, promoted greater continuity between children’s and adults’ services, and called for the abolition on work capability assessments.

“Our combination of policies should mean that people with mental health problems have a better chance of succeeding and getting the care they need,” he said.

He was supported by his colleague Ms Bornemann, who is campaigning for more training around mental health in the workplace so people can “overcome the stigma”.

Mr Jones, an ex-serviceman who said he has seen the “success” of dealing with certain mental health issues, called for an end to the “feast and famine” nature of funding and called for “certainty” on what can be spent on particular services.

This, he noted, would give politicians a chance to scrutinise how things are working and how they could be made better.

The overall debate was part of Mind’s ambition to put a series of priorities forward to any future government.

They include promoting youth mental health, increasing access to services, a review of benefits and mental health legislation, and protecting people at work.

Mark Gillham, Mind in Harrow chief executive, said: “Mental health is one of the nation’s top health concerns. Mind in Harrow is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, but thousands of people locally still lack the essential support that they need to stay well and fully participate in society.

"It is vital that the next UK Government delivers the investment in mental health which our General Election Candidates promised at our Hustings event.”