Mental health therapy session

10-year mental health plan needed at next election, urge charities

More than 30 organisations have co-signed a call for a new 10-year, cross-government mental health strategy for England.

A mentally healthier nation comprises three key tenets: prevention, equality and support.

Tackling social and environmental determinants – like poverty, housing, pollution etc. – are earmarked as the keys for prevention. Investment in “more powerful” public health infrastructure is also highlighted.

Equality centres around narrowing health inequalities by addressing the discrimination and disadvantage that mean certain communities are at a higher risk of developing poor mental health.

Support is about ensuring everyone has timely access to local mental health services. By funding these services, avoiding coercion and widening access (especially for children and young people), mental health outcomes can improve.

The report calls on the government to build on the initial investment made into mental health services at the onset of the NHS Long Term Plan – revamping access standards to cut waiting times and modernising the Mental Health Act are also emphasised as necessary tasks ahead.

The plan demonstrates how England can improve some of the worrying statistics developing in regards to mental health.

For example, those experiencing severe illness have a life expectancy that is 20 years less than the average.

Children from the poorest families are four times more likely than the wealthiest children to suffer a mental health problem by 11.

In the UK, black people are also four times more likely to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act than white people.

The report has been published by the Centre for Mental Health, with organisations like the NHS Confederation, the Mental Health Foundation and the Royal College of Psychiatrists all supporting.

Andy Bell, chief executive at the Centre for Mental Health, commented: “Even with recent growth in NHS mental health services, care is being rationed because the system is overwhelmed. We have to turn this around.

“A comprehensive cross-government plan could help to improve the nation’s mental health while also boosting mental health services.”

He continued: “It could tackle the causes of distress to protect people’s mental health, while also ensuring people living with a mental health difficulty are treated fairly in society. This cannot wait.”

Bell calls on the government to take swift action and for all political parties to commit to a long-term mental health plan at the next election.

Chief executive of the NHS Confederation’s mental health network, Sean Duggan, said: “Health leaders will look to this report from the mental health sector as vital because it sets out a plan on how to improve support, but also how to prevent mental ill health and tackle inequalities.”

“The blueprint to change lives for the better is here, the government must use it,” added Dr Lade Smith CBE, the president of the Royal College Psychiatrists.

Image credit: iStock

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NHE May/June 2024

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