MS charities meet with Disabilities Minister to discuss mental health and MS

Friday 14 July 2023

This week, some of the UK’s biggest MS charities met with Minister for Disabled People, Tom Pursglove MP. The meetings were held to discuss mental health and MS.  

We were joined by MS Trust, MS-UK and Neuro Therapy Network to meet with the Minister on Tuesday. We shared the findings of our joint policy on mental health, which was developed with the four charities and Overcoming MS, and Shift.MS.

All of the charities involved are calling for the Government to develop a neurological conditions Talking Therapies pathway. This is to give people with MS access to better mental health support. They also want better training for the neurological workforce on mental health awareness.

“A vicious cycle”

The charities were joined by Phoebe Day, who was diagnosed with MS in 2020. Phoebe told the Minister about the lack of support to help her come to terms with her diagnosis.

Phoebe said “I’ve always had to proactively work hard at looking after my mental health, with a history of anxiety and depression. So, when the MS diagnosis arrived, it felt like a bundle of crossed wires of emotions and feelings. Some days it’s hard to tell if it’s my MS or low mood stopping me from getting out of bed all day. Knowing that stress is a factor of making MS symptoms worse is difficult to navigate and cultivates a vicious cycle.”

“When I meet with my MS team, I’m never asked about my mental health. The focus is on my physical health relating to MS. Treatment often focuses on the physical, but often ignores the mental and emotional impact of living with symptoms.”

“My neurologist didn’t consider my medical history of anxiety and depression. But, if he had, he might’ve thought about delivering the news more supportively, with a holistic approach. Maybe my diagnosis wouldn’t have been so scary and would’ve saved me some tears.”

The Minister’s response

The Minister agreed to speak with relevant teams in the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) about these recommendations. We will speak to the Department and keep advocating for better mental health support for all people with MS.