Poor mental health is the largest cause of disability in the UK. It’s also closely connected with other problems, including poor physical health and problems in other areas like relationships, education and work prospects. If we want to improve these aspects of people’s lives, we’ll need to make improvements to mental health and wellbeing.
Prioritising mental health
We want public services to reflect the importance of mental health in their planning, putting it on a par with physical health. So we are:
- making better access to mental health services and shorter waiting times a priority for NHS England
- making reducing mental health problems a priority for Public Health England, the new national public health service
- making mental health part of the new national measure of wellbeing, so it’s more likely to be taken into account when government creates policy
- providing £400 million between 2011 and 2015 to give more people access to psychological therapies - including adults with depression, and children and young people
- providing up to £16 million of funding over 4 years for Time to Change, the campaign against mental health stigma and discrimination
We have also set up a taskforce to recommend how to improve mental health services for children and young people. The taskforce will publish its findings in spring 2015.
Effectiveness of mental health services
We want to increase the impact of mental health services by:
- changing how we track success in mental health services, so we measure the things that matter most to the people using them
- reviewing health visiting and school nursing services, to check that staff have the right training to identify and help parents, children and young people with mental health problems
So we have developed MindEd, an online service to provide guidance and training on child mental health for teachers, police, health professionals and other people working with children.
Access to mental health services
There’s evidence that mental health services aren’t meeting the needs of some groups of people. For example only 1 in 6 older people with depression ever discusses it with their GP.
So we’re giving local health and wellbeing boards a duty to reduce health inequalities in their area, including in mental health.
Overall, the number of suicides in England has fallen over the past 10 years, but with a small rise since 2007. The suicide rate is higher for some groups, including young and middle aged men, people in the care of mental health services and prisoners. There were 4,524 suicides in 2012.
So we’ve published guidance on preventing suicide to help health professionals, mental health services, police, prisons and others save more lives.
Mental health for veterans
To improve mental health services for former members of the military, we are:
- recruiting more therapists to treat veterans
- making more counselling services for veterans available online
- funding the 24-hour Combat Stress mental health helpline for veterans
- providing training for GPs and other NHS staff on veterans’ mental health needs
Mental health for offenders
We want to make sure that offenders’ mental health problems are identified as soon as possible, and that they have access to the same mental health services as everyone else. So we will:
- by 2014, set up a national liaison and diversion service to help identify offenders’ mental health problems earlier and make sure they’re getting the right treatment
- give more offenders with personality disorders access to treatment by making it available in prisons, rather than relying on secure units in hospitals
Mental health can be influenced by things like having good relationships and meaningful work, housing and feeling part of a community.
For example, we know that good parenting and giving children a healthy start in life can help build up resilience and make mental health problems in later life less likely.
So to make improvements to mental health, we’ll need action from many different areas of government. Our 2011 mental health strategy and 2012 implementation plan summarise what the different areas of government – as well as local communities – can do to improve mental health.
Who we’re working with
The mental health strategy implementation plan was put together with help from the NHS Confederation, Rethink Mental Illness, Mind and the Centre for Mental Health. The Ministerial Advisory Group on Mental Health Strategy advises us on how mental health services can be improved. The group includes people with mental health problems and their carers.
The National Suicide Prevention Strategy Advisory Group gives us advice on our suicide prevention strategy.
We’re working with Time to Change to agree the best way of measuring changes in public attitudes to mental health. And we’re working with NHS armed forces network, the Royal British Legion and Combat Stress to make sure that more veterans know about the help available to them.
Contributors to the new online guidance and training for people working with children include the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Royal College of Psychiatrists, National Children’s Bureau and Youngminds.
We’re also working with the media and UK Council for Child Internet Safety to find ways to help parents stop their children visiting harmful suicide-related websites.