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29.09.16

Mental illness increases highlight need for further frontline funding

One in six adults in England now meet the criteria for a common mental disorder (CMD), with women particularly affected, prompting calls for more research into the problem and funding.

The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey - Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, England, 2014 from NHS Digital showed that 15.7% of respondents had symptoms for a CMD. This rose to one in five women, compared to one in eight men. Furthermore, 9.8% of women and 6.4% of men displayed severe symptoms.

The most at-risk group of all was women aged 16 to 24, 26% of whom had mental illness symptoms. This amount had been growing since 1993, when it was at 19.2%.

Rebecca Cotton, director of the Mental Health Network, said: “It is of concern that the number of young women experiencing a mental health problem is increasing. This, as the researchers say, warrants closer investigation.”

The report also showed that there was a significant increase in the proportion of people reporting having self-harmed (from 2.4% in 2000 to 6.4%) and experiencing suicidal thoughts (from 3.8% to 5.4%).

Again, young women were most likely to have self-harmed, with a quarter having done so at some point. They also had the highest rates of PTSD (12.6%, against an average of 4.4%) and bipolar disorder (3.7%, compared to 2%.)

Among those with a CMD, 37% were seeking treatment, compared to 24% when the last survey was carried out in 2007. The report said this was largely due to wider availability of psychotropic medicines.

The report also showed that one in 10 adults with severe CMD symptoms had asked for a particular mental health treatment in the past year but had not received it. Patients who were White British, female or aged 35-54 were significantly more likely to receive treatment than patients from other ethnic or age groups.

Cotton added: “If NHS mental health services are to cope with increased public demand we need to ensure promised funding reaches the frontline.”

The government has promised an additional £1bn funding for mental health care by 2020 after a damning report from the Mental Health Taskforce found widespread shortcomings in services.

However, a recent report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warned that this money may not reach frontline services because it is not ring-fenced, meaning services could be under pressure to spend it to address funding shortages elsewhere.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, who chaired the taskforce, said the increase in mental illness could be due to “a huge combination of factors”, which could include people being more likely to seek help with systems and more awareness in the health service about mental illness.

However, he added: “It’s still clear that nowhere near enough people are getting the support they need – in fact, more people than not are getting no treatment at all. We want to see everyone experiencing a mental health problem being able to access the treatments and services they need, when they need them. We still have a long way to go before our mental health is treated as equally important to our physical health. These data make it clear to the Government that when it comes to the nation’s mental health, the time to act is now.”

(Image c. Dominic Lipinski from PA Wire)

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