THE BLOG

Finally, Mental Health Is in the Headlines for the Right Reasons

10/10/2014 08:43 BST | Updated 09/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Every year on 10 October we mark World Mental Health Day to raise awareness and to battle the stigma of ill mental health which is prevalent in our society.

This year feels different. That stigma is starting to get challenged and mental health is finally in the headlines for the right reasons.

Just this week the deputy prime minister and I announced the introduction of waiting time standards for mental health for the very first time and an extra £120million funding over the next two years to improve care - putting us one step closer to our commitment for mental health to be on a par with physical health.

This is a watershed moment for mental health. But the challenges we face are huge - at least one in four of us will experience a mental health problem in our lives and it is the largest cause of disability in the UK which can cause huge personal suffering. The cost to the economy is also enormous - a recent report suggested 70million working days were lost to mental illness last year costing the economy £70-100billion.

Discrimination remains and for too long mental health has been the elephant in the room. The Time to Change attitude survey released this week found the greatest improvement in public attitudes to mental health in 20 years. Shockingly it also found nearly one in 10 adults in England think people with mental health problems shouldn't have the same rights to a job as anyone else and half of respondents said they would feel uncomfortable talking to an employer about their own mental health.

There are signs of progress. I am delighted Barclays has this week signed up to the Time to Change pledge and committed to tackling mental health discrimination in their business and supporting the mental health and wellbeing of their staff.

All government departments have signed the pledge, as well as the Bank of England, the Royal Mail, Procter and Gamble, Friends Life, E.ON, Marks and Spencer, and many local authorities, universities and student unions. Now, we need the others to follow their lead.

So, today I am issuing a challenge. I want all FTSE 100 companies to sign up to Time to Change. The tens of millions of people who support them to be in that elite club work in incredibly demanding circumstances. Not only is it right their employees get the support and advice they need about their mental health, but the employers will set a shining example for the whole business sector to follow.

This Government has gone further than ever before to improve mental health services - finally it is moving from the margins to the mainstream and more people than ever before are openly discussing their mental health experiences. I am committed to ending the stigma and discrimination around mental health. I hope employers will join me.

Norman Lamb is the Care and Support Minister and Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk