Mental health needs a level footing in our health care system

This week has seen Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg speak out ahead of the government’s unveiling of new mental health strategies for the NHS.

Clegg has expressed that mental health can no longer be the ‘poor cousin’ to physical health. This statement rings all too true for far too many, the lines that are crossed due to misnomers are costing livelihoods and indeed lives.

In the latest Samaritans Suicide Statistic Report, over 6,000 people in the UK committed suicide in 2011. This is an increase of hundreds within two years.

One of the greatest tragedies is the stigmatisation attached, even when it is estimated that in a lifetime, the majority of people will suffer from some form of mental health issue.

In September of last year Asda, Tesco and Amazon were admonished by press, public and charities alike for selling various forms of ‘mental patient’ Halloween outfits (complete with tattered, bloodied clothes and optional plastic weaponry). I partook in berating the short sighted companies on Twitter with many others such as the artist Professor Green and pianist James Rhodes.

For me it is not only the failure of common sense, the knowledge that it affects everyone directly or otherwise, or even that by now in the 21st century we should be able to face such demons head on. Because it is the knowledge that our inner demons haunt us all the deeper.

I have suffered with clinical depression for many years, having been diagnosed over a decade ago. It was something that I learned to ride like an endless wave, day upon day of cloudless weather, waiting for that single ray of sun to thaw me through.

It was only two years ago that I had the breakthrough and indeed breakdown that forced me to re-evaluate the weather pattern that ran through my head.

I could write an entire book on how mental health has been an all too personal beast in my life, and that beast has not left me. I am aware that it prowls behind me on darker days, but by seeking counselling (not a quick solution, but worth perseverance, especially with therapies such as neural linguistic programming), support and medical treatment I have the realisation that the darkest hour really does come before the dawn, however far away it may seem.

I can only hope the government’s new policies are more than lip service, for the sake of not only the next generation, but our ever ageing one. With more and more research being conducted, and the brilliant work of charities such as the Samaritans, MIND and SANE – let’s stop stigma.