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Parties pledge to fund mental health, service with a smile at UK happiness cafe, and councils call for a slice of fatty food VAT

A round-up of the morning’s health news headlines

Today’s health headlines have all dubbed today ‘Blue Monday’, supposedly the most depressing day of the year and as such the major political parties have launched more pre-election pledges.

The Guardian reports that Labour wants to bolster young people’s mental health services - which Pulse has revealed have taken huge cuts under the Coalition – and work towards a 28-day waiting time standard for talking therapies and improve access to counselling in schools.

And Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, has launched a ‘zero suicides’ campaign in an endeavour to get NHS organisations to try to cut the 4,700 suicide deaths a year – the majority of whom are men.

Mr Clegg said the national initiative will build on three existing schemes, for example offering talking therapies and training staff to identify and prepare patients and their families to cope with depression.

Brighton-based GPs could benefit from a different kind of pick me up, as the Telegraph reports on the UK’s first ‘Happiness Café’.

The café offers visitors a place to learn about staying mentally healthy, and contains resources on improving mental wellbeing. It also acts as a base for Brighton’s branch of social change group, Action for Happiness.

Sam Challis information manager at mental health charity Mind said: ‘Loneliness and a lack of friendships can contribute to mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, so taking up opportunities to share worries and problems with people who have similar experiences can be invaluable.’

And finally, over the weekend, the BBC reported that the Local Government Association – the representative body for local councils– has called for one-fifth of VAT revenue from unhealthy foods to go to councils for public health initiatives.

The organisation says they have not got enough money left in their budgets, after paying for other public health services, to tackle the nation’s obesity crisis and believe £1bn could be raised by reallocating the VAT funding.

Councillor Izzi Seccombe, of the LGA said ‘this slice of existing money would enable local authorities to do so much more to reverse the tide of obesity’ but a Government spokesperson said ‘ultimately councils are responsible for their spending decisions.’

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