We will all know someone who has suffered from a mental health problem.
One in four of us will be personally affected but almost all of us will have a parent, child, sibling, friend or colleague who has experienced a mental health problem.
In NHS North and West Reading alone, latest figures show 6.69% of people have been diagnosed as suffering from depression.
But the real figure may be even higher. All too often, people are unable to access the support and treatment they deserve. For many years, mental health has been stigmatised with people feeling too embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help.
We need to break down these barriers. The sooner we can talk openly about mental health, the sooner people can get the support they need.
Thursday 5 February is Time to Talk Day; a national day where everyone is asked to take five minutes to have a conversation about mental health.
Taking this short time out of your day can make a big difference and it’s completely up to you where you have that conversation – whether it be at work, home, in your community, school or online.
Time to change, which works to challenge discrimination and stigma around mental health, has funded a range of projects around the country including here in the South East. For example the keepin’ it real campaign in Sussex which trains young volunteers to tackle stigma linked to mental health, and the human search engine project in Oxfordshire seeking to reach local communities and allow them to ask difficult questions about taboo subjects. Both of these projects and many more are making a significant difference.
Bit by bit, we are making progress: transforming people’s attitudes and putting in place the reforms necessary to deliver long lasting improvements in our mental health services.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Health Minister Norman Lamb are leading Liberal Democrat plans to invest an extra £150m over five years to improve services for children and young people suffering from eating disorders and calling for all NHS trusts to commit to a new ambition for zero suicides.
Our zero suicide ambition is about changing how people who are in NHS care are treated so that they are not forgotten when they move house or transfer from one service to another.
The Liberal Democrats are also using £400 million to help people with mental health problems get the right support early on, such as psychological (or “talking”) therapies. We are also introducing the first ever access and waiting time standards to make sure people get help quickly when they need it – just as they would with a physical health condition.
We have committed to invest at least £500m extra every year in mental health in the next Parliament, building on the waiting time standards we have already introduced and improving support for new mothers, children and adolescents. Fundamentally, this is about making sure everyone gets a fair chance in life.
The Liberal Democrats will champion equality for all people with mental health problems and won’t stop until this is achieved. It’s wrong that in this day and age there is still stigma around mental health. Simply talking about how you’re feeling can really make a difference to people. You wouldn’t think twice about telling a friend you’ve broken your leg – physical and mental health should not only be treated equally in the NHS but should be discussed and treated equally in all other spheres of life.
Take a small time out of your day on 5 February to talk about mental health – it could make all the difference.