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Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Good Mental Health

My colleagues in our public affairs department had an interesting meeting with mental health charity Gofal Cymru today, which got me thinking.

They discussed Conservative AM Jonathan Morgan’s Mental Health LCO - which will help change the way in which mental health services are structured and delivered in Wales, and we, alongside Gofal and others continue to support reform.

Their meeting however, soon moved onto the problems we face in Wales in relation to mental health.

The report published by the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, the Wales Audit Office, Estyn and Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales late last year which I blogged about certainly highlights that mental health services in Wales are still failing young people.

What I find exceptionally worrying though, is the issue of social stigma.

People find mental health an uncomfortable topic of conversation, and many people conceal their illness as a result of the social stigma surrounding it. But mental health problems are extremely common - it is estimated that one in four of us will develop mental ill health at some point in our lives.

The social stigma attached to mental illness, the need for better education and the lack of funding are at the forefront of discussions in this area.

Misconceptions and stereotypes of mental illness must be dispelled if we are to remove the social stigma which still exists. Education is the key to achieving this, partly through public health education, but also in the classroom.

Until society respects the rights of individuals facing mental health problems, we will not be able to provide an effective service.

Service users and carers should be treated with dignity and respect and should not be afraid to speak out about their problems.

There is a real need for a fundamental re-think of attitudes and responses to mental health.

Good mental health is a priority for us all, and the Government have a golden opportunity available now to reshape mental health services in Wales - which I hope they grasp with both hands because we still have a long way to go.

Have you been a victim of social stigma? Share your experience with us.

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