Yesterday, Theresa May picked up the baton on mental health, declaring better provision and support (particularly for young people) a central part of her vision for a "shared society".
Although any renewed focus on mental health is to be encouraged, in truth, May is just the latest politician in an ever-growing line (with the words of Clegg in 2014 and Cameron in 2015, remarkably similar) to declare that mental health should be treated on a par with physical health. Although, as ever, the cash to back it up comes a little less easily than the rhetoric.
In essence, what the policy-makers mean is that when you suffer from a mental health problem you should have as quick and direct access to support, as you do for a physical problem. An important and much-needed aspiration, but for the most part it is based around meeting the needs of acute issues only.
For mental health really to be considered on a par with physical health then, as a society, we need to have a confident, open and realistic approach to non-acute mental health too.
Importantly, there is still no real focus on what we can do to look after our mental health on a day-to-day basis. Recognising that we can look after our minds in the same way we look after our bodies.
Most of us don't think twice about looking after our physical health. We do the small stuff on autopilot, like brushing our teeth, putting on moisturiser or cutting our nails. We book in for haircuts, see the doctor if we feel ill, go for regular sight tests and visit the dentist.
We know how to look after our physical health and have a good understanding of potential problems to look out for (even if we don't manage it all of the time...) whether it's exercising, knowing the best foods to eat, or physical checks like feeling for lumps.
We talk about physical health with our friends - I've been ill, I pulled a muscle, I'm so unfit, I'm on a diet. We think nothing of giving the full details. Yet when it comes to mental health it's a completely different story.
I believe there needs to be a better understanding of mental health so people know what they can do to look after themselves, recognise the signs and symptoms to look out for, know how to tackle things like anxiety, low mood and sleeplessness and feel confident to talk to friends, family or employers. There are really simple things you can do to look after yourself and stay feeling your best more of the time. It's this we need to be talking about too.
There are many, scientifically tested and effective strategies that people can follow and fit into their daily routines, such as CBT, Mindfulness and Positive Psychology. All are proven to be effective at preventing as well as curing.
Thankfully, It's not just the politicians who have picked up on the "mental health is no different to physical health" mantra. Encouragingly, a new generation of celebrities are taking the time to talk about the subject, increasing awareness and aiding de-stigmatisation.
Prime among these initiatives is Heads Together, a collaboration between seven mental health charities that is being fronted by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. It aims to end stigma around mental health and has been chosen as the charity of the year for the London Marathon.
Ever so slowly, but ever so surely, Mental health is becoming something that we can discuss with increased openness and without stigma. Yet sadly, for it truly to be considered on a par with physical health, there's still a long way to go.Suggest a correction