You can read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website.
Yesterday, I had an adjournment debate in the House of Commons which I secured on behalf of one of my constituents.
In 2017, it was estimated that one in eight children, aged between five and nineteen, had a mental disorder in England. That is around 1.25 million children and young people suffering.
My constituent is just one of those people, and their experience is no different to thousands of other children and young people up and down the country.
Mental health services, which many of the most vulnerable in our society rely upon, is in crisis because of historic underfunding by the Conservative Government. This has led both adults and children struggling to access the treatment and support they need.
According to research from the Children’s Society, over 110,000 children were unable to access mental health support from a Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAHMS), despite being referred for support.
My constituent has faced similar problems: lost referrals, cases being closed, and lack of NHS mental health counsellors means that my constituent had to wait months to be seen and has not had another appointment for seven months.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Yet, if an A&E stopped treating patients there would be uproar. When the same happens for mental health services, there is silence.
After years of inaction, the Prime Minister said that she wanted to make mental health a priority. But these warm words mean nothing for children and young people, like my constituent, who are currently suffering with their own mental health and unable to get access to treatment and support they need and deserve.
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, mental health trusts have less money to spend on patient care in real terms than they did in 2012.
Funding cuts mean that mental health services are buckling under the strain.
This is having an impact on recruitment and retention; something that affected my constituent’s treatment.
Research by the Labour Party found in January that the total number of mental health nurses has fallen each month this year. The Government is on track to miss its mental health workforce target by 15,000 staff.
As mental health awareness increases so too should the funding and support services provided to those suffering.
That is why a Labour Government will prevent any further raiding of mental health budgets by ring-fencing NHS mental health budgets; increase the proportion of mental health budgets spent on support for children and young people and ensure every secondary school in England is able to offer a school-based counselling service to its pupils.
Young people, like my constituent, have their whole future ahead of them. When they need support, they must have access to it and not be turned away at the door. Parity of esteem needs to be a reality not just warm words.