On Friday I joined a 'walk for wards' in Petworth Park. The event was organised by Heads On, a charity formed by the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which is responsible for mental health services in our area.
I was happy to support the event because I think that the importance of mental health services is often overlooked.
Most of the debate around healthcare is about our GPs or hospitals and physical illness. Yet around one in four people will experience a mental health problem over the course of a year, and around 6 million people suffer from anxiety or depression.
Despite this prevalence, under 13 per cent of the funding given to NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups is budgeted for programmes related to mental health disorders. Only a quarter of people with a common health problem get treatment. Stigma is a real barrier.
Failing to recognise mental health issues can not only cause misery for the individual, but affect families too. It is a major driver of inability to work. And if problems grow they can become more serious, increasing the costs of dealing with them, and affecting society at large.
This week a constituent and Steyning Grammar School student, Stephen Gearing, who is an elected member of the National Youth Parliament, came to see me at Westminster.
Stephen wanted to discuss his campaigning priorities which include mental health. He described two friends, both with serious illnesses, one physical and the other mental.
Only one received the full support and attention needed. You can guess which. I support Stephen's campaign. Mental health must be given parity of esteem, and no longer be the 'Cinderella' service