Byline: Mike Ponton
THE saying "out of sight, out of mind" is a phrase recently quoted to describe the under-reported and often ignored issue of mental health.
While improvements have taken place in recent times, historically mental health services have rarely taken the spotlight, earning them the label of "Cinderella" services.
This is why the Welsh NHS Confederation welcomes the debate sparked by Professor Michael Williams' report on the future of mental health services in Wales and the Health Minister's stated intention to take a close look at their future.
A similar debate is going on in England, and a discussion paper from the Future Vision Coalition puts forward a positive and radical agenda for changing the way we think about mental health services.
The coalition, made up from the NHS Confederation's mental health network and several national mental health organisations, highlights three main aims for the future of mental health services, which are as relevant here as they are across the border.
Firstly, we must deal with the persistent challenges we face in overcoming deep-seated, often unconscious, public attitudes of fear and stigmatisation of mental illness.
Secondly, care for people affected by mental ill-health must take into account not only their health needs, but also their "whole-life outcomes" - the wider social factors that can impact on our mental wellbeing, such as housing and education.
The third aim is to improve the mental health of the whole population by improving public understanding, promoting positive mental health and creating conditions conducive to good mental health.
These are far-reaching and ambitious aims. So how can we shape our mental health policy in Wales in order to achieve them?
The Future Vision Coalition report outlines the changes that need to happen to enable those experiencing mental health problems to enjoy equal opportunities for a fulfilling life.
Above all, mental health should not be seen exclusively as a health and social services issue.
We must widen our focus from addressing the purely clinical needs of mental health service users.
The absence of symptoms does not lead to a fulfilling life if, for example, an employer is put off hiring someone because they have experienced mental health problems in the past. …