The third Monday in January has become notorious for being Blue Monday, supposedly the glummest day of the year. I don’t know if you sprang out of bed on 16th January or whether it was really tough to get going, but this year for me Blue Monday had a real and positive significance.
It saw the launch of Brighter Berkshire, a community-led initiative to make 2017 the Year of Mental Health in Berkshire. There was no formal ribbon-cutting for this campaign, no suits, no speeches. Instead, it took the form of two hours of BBC Radio Berkshire prime time entirely given over to mental health and presented by people with real on-the-ground experience of this issue; the first of 12 similar monthly programmes that will run over the course of 2017.
This is a can-do campaign, dedicated to doing as much as possible to raise the profile of mental health, to reduce the stigma that surrounds it and challenge the injustices that face people with mental health problems, and to improve support and access to treatment. It is looking to network, to spread information, to put people in touch with others who might be able to help them, to bring the conversation about mental health out of the shadows into the open.
It is good news that this Government has recognised that mental health should have parity with physical health and only last week the PM announced new measures to improve mental health care for children and young people. But I know there is more to do to. I shall be talking about this a lot in 2017, Twitter followers be warned. My fellow MPs in Berkshire are all going to be doing the same. Take a moment to visit the Brighter Berkshire website, follow it on Twitter @BrightBerks2017 and get involved as well. Maybe Blue Monday will be a little brighter in 2018.