Investment in mental health is an investment in our future

From increased anxiety to depression to eating disorders, mental health conditions are wide-ranging and have historically been neglected with a lack of services and understanding. Today, it is impossible to ignore the seismic impact untreated mental health has on one’s well-being and NHS resources. According to the World Health Organisation, around 1 billion people are living with mental health disorders. This was in 2020. There is little doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly increased this number.

Insights from the 2021 Community Mental Health Survey, delivered by Picker and commissioned by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), revealed how dire the need for improved mental health services has become. The infection control measures brought in by the government during the Covid-19 pandemic have led to vast changes in the way mental health services have been delivered since March 2020. These changes have left many unable to access the care they need. Notably and alarmingly, almost half (48%) surveyed said the service changes have resulted in worsened mental health. Furthermore, 27% of respondents said they didn’t see NHS mental health services often enough for their needs and more than two in five (42%) felt that the length of time they waited before receiving talking therapies was too long.

We are now on a path where the NHS can begin its recovery from Covid-19. Data released from NHS England in 2022 show that the need for mental health support has not waned, with the waiting list for community mental health care rising to 1.2 million. While there are certainly significant improvements to the way people view the subject of mental health, the positive chat cannot make up for an insufficient mental health workforce in the UK due to an already spread-thin NHS that is experiencing unprecedented staff shortages and overstretched services.

By prioritising the protection of mental health, we not only make the morally right choice, but we also invest in our future. The economic and social impact that preventing poor mental health will have on the world is undeniable, with it costing the UK alone close to £118 billion annually. Frustratingly, yet thankfully, most of the problems are preventable, meaning solutions can be implemented quickly and successfully. According to a Mental Health Foundation report called Investing in Prevention, there are a number of initiatives that have proven successful such as parent programmes, anti-bullying programmes, workplace identification of mental health problems, and psychological therapies.

The UK government must step up and prioritise the empowerment of these community initiatives, pledge funding, and provide much-needed resources to organisations that aim to maximise support for those who need it. Good mental health is fundamental to our productivity. By continuing to allow easily treatable conditions to go unsupported due to a lack of access and investment, we let down the individuals, our communities, and our health and social services as the issues will continue to prevail and drain all involved.

Whilst the latest results of the Community Mental Health Survey revealed poor experiences of care, it’s understandable that the unprecedented challenges took a toll on services. October 27th will see the release of the 2022 Community Mental Health Survey, and we are eager to see if people’s mental health needs have been met.

If you or someone you know is struggling with poor mental health, you can find information, advice, and support on the NHS website.

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