The Current Crisis

In the past week, it is estimated that 1 in 6 people will have personally experienced a mental health issue in England alone (Mind.org). Tragically, suicide is the leading cause of death amongst young adults in the UK.

Almost unbelievably, over the past 23 years, the number of people around the globe suffering from anxiety or depression has increased by around 200 million (WHO, 2016). Major depression is thought to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide (MentalHealth.org).

In the UK, 1 in 3 ‘sick notes’ are issued as a result of psychiatric problems (NHS).

People with severe mental health problems have a significantly reduced life expectancy of between 10 and 25 years below average. Some of this is down to risk factors such as smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, and the side effects of psychiatric medication.

People suffering from mental illness are almost twice as likely to die from coronary heart disease as the general population, four times more likely to die from respiratory disease, and are at a much higher risk of being overweight or obese.

Stigma

There is no doubt that attitudes towards those suffering from mental illness are changing, but there is still a long way to go. Due to its invisibility, mental illness is often viewed to be somewhat of a lesser illness.

Many employers continue to assert that looking after the mental health of their employees is not a priority. Others simply won’t employ anyone with a history of mental illness.

Those with mental health problems are amongst the least likely of any disabled people group to:

– find employment
– be in a steady, long-term relationship
– live in pleasant housing
– be socially accepted in mainstream society

Treatment and Public Policy

In 2014/2015, just under 2 million people were in contact with mental health services at some point over the course of the year. This figure had increased by 90,000 on the previous year.

The Mental Health Act 1983 was invoked over 58,000 times in 2014/2015 to detain or ‘section’ those who were at risk to themselves or others as a result of their mental illness. This figure represents the highest year-on-year increase on record.

Despite the vast and widespread suffering caused by poor mental health, just 5.5% of the UK government’s health research budget is committed to this area.

This is a tiny snapshot of the multi-faceted and commonly misunderstood issues that surround mental health today.