THE chronic underfunding of mental health services in Oxfordshire has been highlighted once again as organisations across the county marked World Mental Health Day yesterday.

A series of events took place across Oxfordshire to highlight mental health, while nationally Theresa May used the day to announce the appointment of a new government minister for suicide, funding for the Samaritans and mental health checks for all schoolchildren.

However, locally Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) continues to be the lowest funded CCG per capita in England, meaning funding for mental health services is becoming increasingly stretched with the number of referrals rising.

Dan Knowles, CEO of Oxfordshire Mind, said: "I think it’s clear there are a lot of announcements of more money from the government.

"It’s backing up this commitment with money on the ground that's important - mental health professionals like us are still struggling to see it come through.

He added: "There are parts of our system, both the third sector and the health services that are really struggling to maintain services at a level that residents in Oxfordshire deserve."

Yesterday the charity held a series of pop-up art galleries across the county to showcase the work of artists who have or have had experience of mental health issues.

Meanwhile mental health charity Restore hosted a discussion with local MP Annaliese Dodds and Oxfordshire County Council Leader Ian Hudspeth aimed at ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Speaking about the event, Lesley Dewhurst, Chief Executive of Restore, said: “The stigma that surrounds mental health is built into the words we use. Language can drive people to—or away from—getting life-changing help like the kind available at The Orchard. We can all end stigma towards mental ill health and encourage more people to access the help they need by changing how we talk about mental illness.”

Speaking about the difficulties faced by mental health services, Ms Dewhurst agreed that the funding in Oxfordshire was not sufficient to maintain the necessary support.

She said: "There's an ambition for mental health to have parity with physical health in terms of funding but we also know the allocation to counties like Oxford is not sufficient.

"And so in terms of the CCG they've got some difficult decisions."

Both charities are part of the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership (OHMP) which brings together NHS services and charities using funding from the CCG, which last year spent £73.6m on mental health - eight per cent of its budget.

Oxford Health NHS Trust, which provides NHS mental health services in Oxfordshire, yesterday launched two new short films at the Curzon Theatre in Oxford about mental health.

A spokesman said: "Oxford Health is financially efficient according to the NHS national reference cost index, so we use the funding we do get well and we continue to develop programmes for further improvements.

"At the same time, demand and complexity of conditions is rising.

"We work hard to build partnerships with the third sector and others, to provide new ways of delivering services that help meet that demand for more people."

The trust launched the short films at the Westgate cinema to spark discussion about common mental health conditions.

The videos feature young people chatting about shared experiences to Mercury Prize nominee Loyle Carner, Izzy Phillips, lead singer and guitarist with Black Honey.

The videos can be found here

Dr Hannah Stratford, clinical psychologist at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “When people start searching the internet or YouTube looking for information sometimes it’s not as helpful as we might like.

"We wanted to offer young people and their families answers to the questions they’re asking, and also provide information about how they can get help and continue living their lives with mental illness. It doesn’t define them.”