It is ok not to be ok. Words I’m sure you have heard often in relation to mental health but with 25% of people in England experiencing a mental health problem every year, they are words that definitely warrant repeating. Having put suicide intervention and mental first aid training to use in my career, I’ve learned not to tiptoe around these topics but to speak about them in the same way we speak about physical illnesses.
Last month I had the privilege of doing just that when speaking in Parliament tying together the stands of work I am undertaking on mental health. Government is clearly taking the issue seriously with a £3 billion funding increase per year – including £3 million for our mental health crisis centre in Carlisle – and cross-party support the issue is seeing progress, but we can move further and faster. My next step is meeting the Mental Health Minister with my friends, the 3 Dads Walking.
My biggest recent parliamentary news however, came from my role on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee where, due to my professional expertise, I was invited to chair this week’s session focusing on a huge array of pet ownership issues that have boomed since the pandemic. We heard harrowing evidence of increased demand for mutilated animals; animals being brutally imported in such poor conditions that some had to be put down upon arrival in the UK; horses being exported for slaughter; and animal charities becoming overwhelmed by the sheer number of abandoned animals.
Having appeared on ITV News, Talk TV, and BBC Radio – the public interest and support for our Inquiry has been overwhelming and I will continue pushing to stamp out these abhorrent practices.
Also this month on the EFRA Committee and after much hard work, we published our report into Marine Mammals. I triggered this Inquiry which seeks to demand higher standards for our new trading partners such as banning whale, porpoise and dolphin hunting as we seek to overhaul the global biodiversity crisis in our oceans.
I’m incredibly passionate about giving a voice to all animals, domestic and wild so alongside committee work, in the Chamber I secured Government confirmation advancing animal welfare measures on a range of issues such as banning importing mutilated, heaving pregnant and underage dogs. I work side by side with charities like the Dogs Trust, Battersea and Blue Cross on this and have seen first-hand the incredible work they do in rehoming abandoned or mistreated animals.
Clearly it has been a busy month in Parliament and it has been no different back in Cumbria. I’ve met with pupils from Armathwaite, Shankhill, and William Howard Schools – helping the next generations learn about how a vet became their MP, my role representing them and how they can become engaged in politics to make the world a better place.
We also spoke about vaping. As regular readers know, preventing our youth from getting hooked on vaping products is a key drive of mine and I have spoken repeatedly in the Commons about the issue and penned a piece in the Sunday Express. Alongside the many health, wellbeing and behavioural issues in children the environmental issues cannot be overlooked. Recently while walking my dog Poppy, I had to retrieve a disposable watermelon vape from her mouth. As a vet, I shudder to think what would have happened if she had chewed or swallowed it.
With the new Indiana Jones film out, it was also a perfect opportunity to return to Birdoswald Roman Fort where the team have begun a new digging season, unearthing more about civilians who lived alongside the military. I felt like a poor imitation of Dr Jones but it was amazing to see history in action! And also, I managed to champion local industry with a meeting at Roxane UK Eden Valley water bottling plant. We are so lucky to have such innovative and successful businesses right on our doorstep boosting the local economy!
A brief update for our brilliant farmers. I met again on farm with local NFU members recently who reiterated what a pivotal time it is for the industry as we undergo necessary changes. Help is coming
and I would urge people to engage with available schemes so Government can better adapt payment for those on the ground. This month an evolved Sustainable Farming Incentive was launched and local farmers can also take advantage of new kit through the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund.The stress of changes has also impacted health and wellbeing of our farmers too, so alongside financial support I met with a range of rural mental health charities keen to hear more about the report I helped produce and to find solutions to the wider rural mental health crisis unfolding.
With all the countryside issues discussed it will have escaped nobody just how unique our communities are. I voiced this in a recent debate on Heating Rural Homes, an area I feel has been overlooked by policy makers in Whitehall.
Lastly, I would just like to thank everyone for opening their arms to the people of Ukraine. The Government recently allocated Cumbria more than half a million pounds to support Ukrainians into sustainable and accommodation and to prevent homelessness. This money wouldn’t help without the incredible generosity of Cumbrians so thank you all.