I was recently a guest at the annual meeting of Advocacy in Somerset, which helps mentally ill people by ensuring their voice can be heard.
I quickly learned that even in this day and age, there is still a stigma to suffering a mental illness or previously having one.
There continues to be a lack of understanding that having a mental illness is much like having a ‘regular’ illness, and, just as with other health issues, they very often can be cured or treated.
This stigma affects people’s employment prospects, their access to public services, and even finding a mortgage or getting insurance.
In my weekly surgeries in Wellington, Wiveliscombe, and Taunton, I meet mental health sufferers who ask me for help because their concerns have been dismissed or ignored by others.
So, I was very impressed when I met the people who run Advocacy in Somerset and found out more about how they work.
Often, they are supporting young people and adults for whom few people would spare any time.
They provide an advocacy service in all of Somerset’s in-patient psychiatric units and hold weekly drop-in sessions and will also meet by appointment.
In this way, they make sure that patients can properly express their point of view, and that those views are heard and acted upon by health and social care staff.
They see that patients receive information about their care and treatment and they provide them with legal advice and support where needed.
It means patients are not alone in their journey back to full health.
Much of their funding comes from Somerset County Council, where I know the new Conservative administration has empathy for the care of people whose minds are in a fragile condition.
For instance, my Conservative colleague Councillor Christine Lawrence, who is the cabinet member responsible for community welfare, has only recently announced a £200,000 project to improve the support available to people suffering dementia.
To find out more about how Conservatives would improve health services to make them among the best in the world, email me at email@example.com or visit markformosa.com