JANUARY is a tough month, it’s cold and money is tight. This year things feel particularly strained. Rents, mortgages, energy, and food bills are pinching as much as the chill in the air. To get through we bunker down – binge watch a box set and make our resolutions for the New Year.

Whether we stick to our 2024 plans or not – they offer us some hope about what the future holds for us and our families.

We all need to feel hopeful, but many of us – too many – are really struggling with our mental health in Darlington. The isolation and fear of the pandemic has left a hangover which, without the right support, could well be felt for a generation. The daily grind of political instability, the cost of living and financial volatility has a destabilising effect on even the most happy-go-lucky of us.

I spend my time knocking on doors – asking for votes and hearing people out.

It’s not for the fainthearted but most people are happy to spare the time to chat. Once you get over the dog bites and the door slams and the odd bit of nudity, you get a good feel for how people are doing.

I’ve been working in public facing roles in one way or another since I graduated in 2010. Over the last 14 years, I’ve never been so sure that things need to change. Across our town we’re experiencing a collective mental health epidemic. If I’m lucky enough to gain the trust of enough people here to win Darlington at the General Election, I will do all that I can to tackle it.

Door after door, street after street, people put on a brave face and tell me they’re fine, but with a few more questions, time and again they tell me about their struggles to access services they’d once taken for granted.

They tell me about the impact the financial pressures are having on their lives.

They tell me about their chronic stress trying to navigate complex processes to get their child the support they deserve.

They tell me the guilt they feel trying to juggle working and being the best parent they can while supporting their own parents.

The Northern Echo: Lola McEvoyLola McEvoy is Labour's Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Darlington 

Statistically one in four of us will experience a mental health issue each year in England and there’s a waiting list of 1.6m people needing mental health services. We’re failing to cope, and we deserve more support.

In Darlington we have a statistically significant number of men dying from suicide. I know too many men who have taken their own life because they couldn’t see a way out.

This is a sign that something is badly wrong.

A Labour government has a plan to bring our suicide rate down and, if elected, I’ll make it my business to make sure it stays a priority.

The next Labour government will prioritise a truly preventative plan for mental health services. We will ensure access to mental health professionals in every school and put an open access hub in every community, funded by closing tax loopholes. We will take bold action on waiting lists, guaranteeing mental health treatment within a month for all who need it, by recruiting thousands of new mental health staff.

We can't change things without a change in government.

I grew up off North Road, so I know what a brilliant place Darlington is. Our town is full of people who are trying their best to do right by their families and by each other, but it’s too hard for too many to get support when we need it.

We deserve better.

If I’m elected, I’ll be relentless in championing more support that’s simpler to navigate and quicker to access because we need it. Now more than ever.

  • Whatever you're going through, you can call the Samaritans any time, from any phone for FREE. Call: 116 123. Or click here
  • Lola McEvoy is Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Darlington