'Mental health needs to be given same priority as physical health,' Labour leader tells ITV Central

ITV News Central Political Correspondent Alison MacKenzie speaks to Sir Keir Starmer following the report of a doubling in child mental health cases

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has told ITV News Central mental health should be given the 'same priority' as physical health.

Speaking ahead of the Labour party's conference in Brighton this weekend, Sir Keir said: "We need to give mental health the same priority as physical health and we haven't done it and even before the pandemic - 2019 - after a decade of the government being in power, we had waiting lists for mental health diagnosis that took far, far too long."

His comments come as a record number of under-18s were referred to mental health services this year.

Almost 200,000 youngsters sought help between April and June, nearly double levels seen before coronavirus.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists said the figures show that the pandemic is taking its toll on children and young people.

Earlier this year, ITV News Central's investigation into whether services for children with mental health problems are fit for purpose.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer calls for mental health to be given the 'same priority' as physical health

When asked by ITV News Central's Political Correspondent Alison MacKenzie for his reaction to the report of a doubling in child mental health cases, Sir Keir said: "I'm really concerned about it, I think there has been an increase in mental health issues with young people, particularly during the pandemic."

He added: "And I've seen that myself and have had conversations with young people myself and we absolutely need a recovery plan that deals with this."

Where can you get help if you are struggling?

The NHS and several charities across the UK offer various resources and helplines for people who need help and for people who think someone they care about needs support.

Mind has a helpline on 0300 123 3393.

The Samaritans, which helps people who feel suicidal, can be contacted on 116 123.

YoungMinds, who support young people with mental health issues, can be contacted on 0808 802 5544.

The NHS has a resource page offering various routes to support here.