Today in the House of Commons there was a general debate on mental health. Nicky Morgan MP opened the debate with a few statistics. She said that confessing to a mental health problem comes with far too much stigma, and that many people came forward with their stories and said she could use their names, before backtracking and preferring to remain anonymous because they hadn't told their employer or friends and family.
She highlighted the fact that poor mental health has an impact on every area of policy - something that is targeted in the government's 'No health without mental health' strategy. She said it is important to listen to patients. Sufferers, she said, want a choice of treatment and medication isn't always the answer.
One running theme throughout the debate was the emphasis of shared responsibility - the fact that mental health issues permeate every other area of government policy. "One person can need a lot of help from different agencies," said Morgan.
She said that we need to be in a situation where it's as normal to talk about mental wellbeing as it is about physical wellbeing, and that we need to give people information on how to get help before reaching crisis point. Morgan concluded by saying that this is "an important debate, but only a first step".
Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham followed Morgan, and began talking about how mental health has no boundaries and can affect anyone. He explained how mental health is an area that is harder to raise money for than other charities, "it's difficult to get people to give money to mental health charities unless they’ve suffered themselves," he said.
Jones then decided to talk about his own battle with depression for the first time: "Like a lot of men, you try and deal with it yourself. You don't talk to people. First of all it creeps up on you very slowly." He said that admitting you need help is not a sign of weakness, and that cognitive behavioral therapy was the answer for him: "'it's how you think”.
He then bravely admitted that he'd had doubts about bringing his personal mental health problems to the debate, before saying, "I don't know if I’ve done the right thing, or whether it'll change people’s views of me but actually, I have to be honest - I don't care".
Charles Walker then followed this by talking candidly about his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He brought up personal examples of his OCD and said that there has to be an upside from mental health problems.
He said that society has the biggest part to play in tackling mental health, and that we need to take a step back from our prejudices. He talked about how he used to be so paranoid of anyone finding out about his disorder when he first became an MP. But now, he says, "I'm not frightened anymore. It's a really good place to be, and I don't care what people think about me anymore'.
He concluded by saying "let's get over it and move on". His account of OCD and nonchalant attitude towards the opinions of others will help more people than he realises.
Overall, the debate was inspiring, empowering and exciting. The unexpected stories of two MPs’ own struggles with mental health was extremely moving – drawing on personal experience is not often done in the House of Commons, but this was the perfect opportunity to do so.
#mentalhealthdebate made the top trend on Twitter in the UK, with many tweeters incredulous of the two brave admissions. 'Coming out' about mental illness is difficult, and many people watching will be struggling with the same issue. Not only were many important issues discussed, but the moving personal accounts really hit home that the state of mental health in UK is really going to improve.