A campaign has been launched to help raise awareness, increase support and challenge stigma surrounding mental health – which affects one in four people each year.

During Hertfordshire’s Year of Mental Health, people are being asked by Herts County Council to get involved by making a pledge of support, which could be anything from volunteering a couple of hours a week as a companion to someone with dementia, to raising money for a mental health charity.

You could simply pledge to be more vocal about what changes you would like to see in mental health, or vow to challenge discrimination.

A woman from Stevenage, who did not want to be named, said: “In my family there is a history of schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and dementia.

“Many people do not understand mental health issues and think people are either crazy or need to pull themselves together and get on with things.

“It isn’t like that. Mental health problems are as real as cancer, a stroke or a broken bone, and can be just as debilitating.

“They devastate lives, and people battling with these conditions need help and support. It’s a sad fact that there is still stigma attached to mental health conditions, and it basically comes down to a lack of understanding and awareness.”

Tom Cahill, chief executive of Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health and specialist learning disability services, said: “This is a really exciting opportunity for us as a trust to engage more widely with the public.

“I am proud to have worked in mental health for 30 years. Things have come a long way during that time and I am hopeful the Hertfordshire Year of Mental Health will make a big difference to the communities we serve.”

Visit www.hertsdirect.org/HertsYMH to make a pledge.