Make mental health bigger priority

Mental health is making more headlines these day and the emphasis is on acknowledging where suffers have been failed and finding solutions. England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, has recently said that mental health needs to be more of a priority, with targets for waiting times and more protection for funding. As well as discussing how the need for more support for patients her annual report said mental illness led to the loss of 70 million working days in the UK last year – up 24% since 2009. Overall, mental illness costs the economy between £70bn and £100bn in lost productivity, benefit payments and absence from work. In terms of NHS spending, it accounts for 13% of the budget despite causing 28% of illness.

As well as calling for greater emphasis on mental illness in the NHS, she also said employers could play a role too. She recommended they allowed people with mental health problems the option of flexible working to keep them in employment and maintaining regular contact during sickness leave.

On top of the financial implications, she said that access to services needed to improve as three-quarters of people with a mental illness did not receive treatment. She suggested targets for waiting times – as have been introduced in other areas of the health service such as A&E units and for routine surgery – could make a difference. Young people in particular needed better access to support, she said, as half of adults with mental health problems develop them before the age of 15 and three-quarters by 18. Dame Sally said the costs were “astounding” and NHS bosses needed to treat mental health “more like physical health”.

This report comes after a number of reports have highlighted how mental health services are being squeezed. In January Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg described mental health as the “poor cousin” in the health service.

Andy Bell, deputy chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, said: “Better, faster and earlier help for mental health is vital to improve people’s lives and represents excellent value for money.

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said the CMO’s recommendations would be “considered carefully”, adding attempts were being made to make mental health more of a priority, including the possibility of introducing targets. “I want to build a fairer society where mental health is treated with the same importance as physical health,” he said.

It is clear that mental health is a major concern for society on the whole and the most important thing is that if you or a loved one are suffering you ask for help.

Article taken in part from

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