Those who are affected by mental health difficulties face a wide range of challenges, not the least of which is getting the right support and advice. I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the work that charities like 'Rethink' carry out, both nationally and in our region.
This week the Government abandoned its controversial reforms of the 1983 Mental Health Act. The draft Bill was criticised by Rethink and other charities for being draconian and unworkable. The Government has, nevertheless, pledged to reintroduce it in a shorter form and I remain very concerned by the possible outcome.
A joint report also published this week by The Audit Commission, Healthcare Commission and Commission for Social Care Inspection has concluded that the NHS is letting down elderly patients.
Perhaps unsurprisingly one of the worst areas identified was mental health care, where older people found services deteriorating as they passed the age of 65.
But the problems do not end with those who are personally affected by mental illness.
There are over 5 million carers in the UK, one million of whom care for more than 50 hours a week.
That is a greater commitment than a full time job. But most carers do not think of themselves as such, and consequently find it difficult to ask for support.
I discovered these statistics after I met last month with members of the Braintree Carers' Support Group, which is part of 'Rethink'. My local group offers fantastic support and advice for those who have a family member affected by mental illness.
For the moment the Government has backed down about the draft Mental Health Bill. But there are many more battles ahead.
One example is the Chancellor's new tax on the income from trusts, proposed last week. Many carers will now find it difficult to ensure long term financial security of family members who cannot manage their own affairs because of mental illness.
Rethink continues to campaign at a national level to raise awareness of mental health issues. But it also offers the same high quality of support to those who are affected by mental illness and their carers. More details are available at www.rethink.org."