As the year ends, it’s time to cast an eye over the most news-worthy moments of 2023 when mental health featured heavily in politics. Mental health is a political matter, as policy, funding (or lack thereof) and cuts to services all directly affects the mental health of the nation and the experience of those living with mental illness. Here’s the biggest moments of the year for mental health in politics and how MQ Mental Health Research responded.



The UK Government scrapped the long-awaited 10-year  mental health strategy. Leading charities including MQ and social enterprises came together in an open call to the government recommending a new long-term approach to mental health. MQ asked the questions which were left unanswered by the government’s controversial decision to scrap the 10-year plan and instead replace it with a ‘Major conditions strategy’ which, as of nearly a year later, is still yet to be published in full.

An MP proposed that Mental Health First Aid courses should be mandatory in the workplace. Conservative MP Dean Russell proposed a new law to parliament on 25 January 2023 which suggested making Mental Health First Aid a legal requirement for workplaces. However after it’s first reading in the House of Commons in January no further progress on this bill has been made.

Legislation change was urgently called for by MQ as children of England faced a mental health crisis.  The young people of England bore the burden of deepening mental health problems as the number needing treatment rose by 39% in just one year.



On the 7th of February, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the formation of a new Ministry for Science, Innovation and Technology led by Michelle Donelan. This new government departments aim is stated as bringing together the governments oversite of research into new technologies, life sciences and biology. This news was welcomed by MQ as it reflects the ‘brain, body, mind’ approach that MQ’s multi-disciplinary research takes.




A new study showed population level studies are useful when looking at the big mental health picture, but crucially, they can mask the inequalities of vulnerable groups. The review examined 137 published studies measuring psychological distress before, during and after the COVID pandemic and did confirm women saw greater increase in depression symptoms than men.



This was the seasons for Stress Awareness Month and MQ covered the most stressful industries to work in, one of the most popular articles on our website in 2023, and how employers can help employees manage their stress levels.



In 2023, the theme for Mental health Awareness Week was ‘anxiety’. In response, MQ published articles including exploring what is anxiety and what is anxiety disorder as well as personal stories around what it feels like to have a panic attack, highlighting the prevalence of experiences of anxiety disorder as well as the importance of mental health in our political landscape post-pandemic.

The Coronation gave the UK a new king, the first for 70 years, and an opportunity to consider royal public figures who have been open about their mental health experiences or supporters of mental health charities and organisations.

In May this year, more detail was released of what the November 2022 UK Government announcement of a new approach to health challenges meant for mental health research. This included £42.7 million for mental health research with funding spread across the UK and the Mental Health Mission was launched aiming to accelerate research across the country.

Labour announced a new suicide prevention policy. Keir Starmer spoke about Labour’s plan to build an NHS Fit for the Future. The policies announced focused on reforming the NHS and set targets for three of the UK’s ‘biggest killers’: cancer, cardiovascular disease and suicide.



The Cost of Living Crisis Report was published. MQ and Glasgow University produced a set of recommendations to help the UK better respond to the mental health issues arising from the ongoing cost-of-living-crisis. This year MQ followed up on this by also publishing ideas on how to look after your mental health on a budget and also coping with the cost of living crisis.

Schools that implement punitive approaches to children’s behaviour as opposed to addressing the root causes harms children’s mental health, a new report published this month stated.



Mental health experts, charity bosses and people with ‘lived experience’ called on the Government to reinstate the 10-year Mental Health Strategy, with MQ being front and centre. On Thursday 20 July, MQ hand-delivered a letter to 10 Downing Street. The letter, from 56 mental health leaders including academics, health practitioners, charity bosses and lived experience experts asked the UK Prime Minister to reverse the government’s decision to scrap the 10-year Mental Health Strategy originally due to be published this year.




In a move that raised questions about transparency and accountability, the UK Government chose to release its framework for the Major conditions strategy during August, a time when news focus is not usually on political moves. Opinion was voiced by Lea Milligan, CEO of MQ Mental Health Research.



The UK Government’s new suicide prevention strategy had an ambitious target of reducing national suicide rates within two and a half years. MQ asked how this could be possible, looking more deeply into what could be done.

Mental health organisations across the UK including MQ called for all political parties to adopt the mental health policies outlined in a new report on A Mentally Healthier Nation. Focusing on three key areas of Equality, Prevention and Support, over 30 mental health organisations joined together to put it to all political parties to commit to mental health in their election manifestos.

The UK also re-joined The EU’s Horizon Europe Funding programme. A key source of funding for research and start ups working with new technologies such as AI and Quantum computing. This could ultimately lead to new digital interventions for common mental health conditions.




World Mental Health Day’s theme for 2023 was ‘Mental Health Is A Human Right’. MQ responded to the theme by publishing articles looking at framing mental health in the scope of human rights, exploring how mental health is protected as a human right and personal stories on why the mental health act needs reform due to human rights.



The King’s speech did not include mention of the reform of the mental health act, despite this being a key manifesto commitment. MQ covered how has the mental health sector responded, noting the anger and dismay from charities. The strong reaction from leaders in the mental health community was in response to the government’s de-prioritisation of mental health when the sector and many others see it as a clearly growing problem that needs to be addressed urgently.

In the UK, the Autumn Statement caused controversy and push back from the opposition. Labour’s Liz Kendall warned it would be ‘unforgivable’ if the UK Government were to ‘stand by and do nothing’ about mental health.



Global news has been traumatic this year and the political landscape anxiety-provoking to many. To help people cope, MQ published an article on how to cope with anxiety-provoking world news. The article made suggestions of how to hold healthy boundaries and take care of our own well-being and particularly that of children and young people.


Politics matters in mental health because political decisions affect real-life lived experience of mental wellness and mental illness, it’s prevention, treatment and interventions. Research informs all of this. Read about the 2023 highlights of mental health in research here and of mental health ‘in conversation’ – or in the public eye in an article from MQ due to be published early next week.


The post Rights, Rage and Reform: Mental Health in Politics in 2023 first appeared on MQ Mental Health Research.

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