A report compiled by an independent taskforce, devised by NHS England, has said there is a need to re-energise and improve mental health services.
There is a particular problem in treating children and young people, with half of all mental health issues being established by the time a person is 14, and 75 per cent by the age of 24. However, there are still problems with getting easy access to help when it's needed.
The report says that too many people are not getting the help they need, whether through inadequate services or not receiving any care at all.
As well as this, problems with mental health can often affect other areas of the health service. The document highlights how people who suffer with severe and prolonged mental illness are at risk of dying on average 15 to 20 years earlier than other people, which is one of the biggest health inequalities in England.
Further to this, two-thirds of these deaths are the result of avoidable physical illnesses, including heart disease and cancer, many caused by smoking. The report also emphasised how difficult it is for people with mental health problems to access physical healthcare, with under a third of people with schizophrenia in hospital having received the recommended assessment of cardiovascular risk in the last year.
It also has an impact on those suffering with long-term physical illnesses, with people who also have mental health problems often having more complications. This has a significant impact on the NHS as it increases the cost of care by around 45 per cent, on average.
However, these problems are often left unaddressed. Citing the example of type 2 diabetes, the report says that £1.8 billion of additional costs for this condition can be attributed to poor mental health. But less than 15 per cent of people with diabetes have access to psychological support, despite research showing that support in this area can reduce costs by 25 per cent.
The report also found that a fifth of older people living in the community and 40 per cent of older people living in care homes are affected by depression, highlighting the importance of specialists in this area to provide this support.
In order to resolve the problem, it sets out a number of recommendations to improve the current situation and ensure more people are able to access the level of care they need.
As part of this, the report emphasised the importance of a seven-day NHS, allowing people to access the same level of care whenever they have a mental health crisis. In addition to this, it says access to talking therapies and crisis care need to be improved.
The government has accepted the findings, pledging to treat a further million people by 2020 and invest an additional £1 billion to tackle the problem.
Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, Paul Farmer, the chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, who led the taskforce, said the strategy should act as a "landmark moment" for mental health care.
He said the report was telling the NHS, government, industry, local leaders and the public that mental health needs to be a priority. However, he also highlighted the importance of changing attitudes, as well as investing more funds.
”What is changing attitudes is the way we as a public think about it and people with their own experiences talking and speaking up about their experiences,” Mr Farmer said. “That is what’s going to change the way we think about mental health problems overall.”
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