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Fighting for mental health

NOT ALONE: 1,400 more people are accessing mental health services every day in the UK than in 2010

MENTAL ILLNESS, like physical illness, can affect anyone, at any time.

Just as with many physical illnesses, mental illness can wreak havoc on every aspect of a person’s life.

It is not just the individual that suffers, but the impact extends to friends, families and work colleagues as well.

It is a shocking fact that one in four people in the UK lives with a mental health condition.

That’s nearly 15 million people affected by an illness that they should feel able to reveal and discuss openly.

MENTAL HEALTH: MP Helen Grant says the government has been working to make sure that there is equal priority for mental and physical health

Sadly though, because of the deeply ingrained negative social stigma attached to mental illness, so many feel unable to ask for support in their time of need.

More specifically, research from the mental health charity Mind has found that a quarter of all black, Asian or minority ethnic people who struggle with their mental health, keep their issues to themselves believing they don’t know anyone that would understand.

It’s why Mental Health Awareness Week is such an important opportunity for us to open up and shine a light on these issues.

To help combat this, the Government has been working to make sure that there is equal priority for mental and physical health in this country.

The effort has already reaped big improvements with around 1,400 more people accessing mental health services everyday compared with 2010.

At the end of last year the Prime Minister also announced a review of the Mental Health Act, to address the long-standing injustices of discrimination and rapidly rising detentions in our mental health system.

One particular area of focus is upon young people in educational settings, including colleges and universities, to raise awareness of suicide risk and mental wellbeing.

As with many issues a lot of it boils down to education.

Starting to have open conversations on the issue with children at quite a young age will help them grow up better equipped to recognise and tackle mental health problems that they may face later in life.

To that end the Government is investing £1.4 billion in children’s mental health by 2020, to ensure that every secondary school in the country is offered mental health ‘first aid’ training.

This will ensure that teachers and school staff are getting the extra training they need to identify and respond to early signs of mental health problems among their pupils.

We cannot eradicate mental ill-health, but we must surely now try to eradicate the stigma associated with it.

Mental health should not be seen solely as a problem for the NHS and wonderful charities like Mind to solve.

As individuals we all need to take steps, in every part of life – at home, at school, at work, in our leisure and community activities – to help dissipate the mysteries and misconceptions surrounding mental health.

We need to think more creatively about how to have meaningful conversations with each other, understanding. The simple fact that Mental Health Awareness Week exists shows that we are making progress – but if we are to be a healthy and compassionate society we must keep up the effort throughout the whole year, not just for one week.

Then, perhaps, people will feel empowered to seek the support they require to manage their challenges without fear of isolation.

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