As a society we have seen mental illness as secondary to physical health needs and failed to grasp the toll it can take not just on those we love but the nation as a whole.
I believe that to truly demonstrate the values of compassion and progress that we as a society share, we must transform the way we think about and treat mental illness.
As Prime Minister I am determined to employ the power of Government to change the way we deal with mental health problems across the country and at every stage of life.
And driving changes in the workplace is a vital part of that transform ation.
So earlier this year I asked Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind and chairman of the NHS Mental Health Taskforce, and Lord Dennis Stevenson, a long-time campaigner for greater understanding and treatment of mental illness, to carry out an independent review.
The report, called Thriving At Work, was published this week and should mark a turning point in how employers support not just their workers’ physical but mental well being.
The review reveals that an average 300,000 people lose their jobs every year because of untreated mental health problems.
That job loss can have a devastating impact on a person’s mental wellbeing.
The impact too on British business is enormous – mental health problems are costing employers up to £42billion each year.
Thriving At Work makes 40 recommendations for employers, Government and regulators.
It lays out six “core standards” for all to adopt that lay the basic foundations for a better approach to workplace mental health.
These include setting up mental health at work plans, awareness training for staff and making managers directly accountable for the mental wellbeing of staff. For larger organisations and the public sector the review has “enhanced” standards to monitor and improve employees’ mental health.
So we will take immediate action to lead this transformation.
That is why I asked the NHS and Civil Service – two of the country’s largest employers – to adopt the recommendations of this report.
They will introduce a set of enhanced standards to provide support for anyone with a mental health condition and help them stay at work.
This will give employees the knowledge, tools and confi dence to look after their own mental health and to support colleagues who may need help.
And it will help employees to understand that nurturing their mental wellbeing is as natural and important as striving to improve our physical wellbeing.
More than two million public sector workers will benefi t from the changes, making the sector a hugely important standard bearer in this transformation of the workplace.
Many companies, large and small, are already leading the way in supporting mental health in the workplace and I am sure many more will sign up to recommendations in Thriving At Work.
They recognise that improving the mental wellbeing of their employees is not only their responsibility but it also builds motivation within the workforce, reduces absences and drives better productivity too.
I am sure the Sunday Express, which for fi ve years has championed the cause to improve care and raise awareness of mental health problems, will be leading the field.
It has given a powerful voice to those who might otherwise not have been heard and joined the growing alliance of campaigners determined to deliver real change for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
I know the Sunday Express will continue to play a vital role in fi ghting to end the stigma attached to mental health.
Tackling the injustice of mental illness is one of my absolute priorities as Prime Minister and I believe that by taking these steps together we as a society can transform how we think about mental illness and improve the way we care for all those with mental health problems.
Transforming our approach to mental health will not happen overnight. It will take years and will require a sustained and determined effort by everyone in society.
But we have a historic opportunity to right this wrong and give people deserving of compassion the support they need. The momentum for real change is building.
Politicans from all sides of the House have bravely spoken out about their own personal battles with mental health, tackling the stigma around the issue, and more and more organisations are putting mental health at the heart of their duty of care to workers.
The Government has committed to a record £11.6billion on mental health care, with a further £1billion pledged by 2020/21.
We are investing £1.4billion in mental health services for children and young people, and teachers and school staff across the country are getting extra training to identify and respond to early signs of mental health problems among pupils.
It is this sense of solidarity that will help us transform the support we offer to those with mental health conditions and defeat the stigma for good.