Our MP has written on the challenges society faces in coming to terms with mental health issues and has praised local charities Lindengate and SPACE for their vital work.
Last week’s Bucks Herald looked at efforts being made to improve mental health support for people living in rural parts of our county.
It was an important article. For too long the scale of mental health problems in our society was ignored.
It was only in 2012 that the NHS began to record figures for access to mental health services.
Stigma has been a big problem, with many people afraid to admit to their family, their GP or even to themselves that they were struggling with mental health problems.
Now, attitudes are changing. Celebrities like Stephen Fry, MPs like my colleagues Charles Walker and Kevan Jones (Conservative and Labour respectively) speak openly about their personal battles.
There’s greater public willingness to discuss mental health without the squeamishness we’ve seen in the past.
Government policies too have shifted. Spending on mental health is at a record level - nearly £12 billion.
Mental health will be a priority in work to implement the NHS long-term plan. Already,£2bn of the government's £20bn of additional funding for the NHS has been earmarked to provide specialist mental health support in every A&E department, more specialist ambulances and mental health teams in schools.
There are ambitious plans to increase the NHS’ mental health workforce by 21,000, and expand mental health provision to a million more people by 2021.
This is all welcome, but I’m the first to accept that much more needs to be done.
Nor is this a matter for the health department alone. Many people sleeping rough have a history of mental illness. That’s true also of a very large proportion of people in prison. We need to join up mental health work with policies to reduce rough sleeping and cut reoffending.
Government and the NHS also need to work with voluntary organisations. Locally, I’ve seen how charities like Space and Lindengate have given new hope and opportunity to people with mental health problems.
Our aim must be to ensure that, as a society, we treat mental health as an equal priority to physical health.