So today is World Mental Health Day and my social media feeds are full of positive posts about mental illness aimed at raising awareness and reducing stigma. This is great by the way; just a few years ago people didn’t talk about their mental wellbeing at all let alone mental illness. As a consequence, we have seen a reduction in the stigma particularly around anxiety and depression and whilst we still have a way to go, especially with psychotic disorders, personality disorders and addictions, it feels as though we have made progress lately. Added to this, mental illness is making its way into political agendas with the government announcing increased funding into mental health services.
Or so it seems…
In 2010, a study by the World Economic Forum found that mental illness was the number one economic burden and that by 2030 the economic burden would reach $6 trillion. To put that into perspective, the entire global health spending in 2009 was $5.1 trillion!
The World Health Organisation also found that people with mental illness suffer the greatest disability with greatest number of years of their lives lost due to disability. It is also estimated that 1 in 6 people in the past week experienced a common mental health problem.
So at the very least it makes sense to invest in mental health services for financial reasons alone.
And the government IS investing in mental health services, right?
In 2016 Theresa May pledged to invest an extra billion pounds into mental health by 2021 and the government claims that it is investing more than ever before. Well, that is probably true but the problem with these kinds of statements is that whilst the raw figure is higher, the real terms investment is not necessarily higher, because it doesn’t consider inflation. A press release by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2018 showed that in England, the total amount of income that mental health trusts received in 2016-17 was £11.829 billion, £105 million lower than in 2011-12 at today’s prices.
The second problem is that whilst the money is going towards mental health, it is not actually getting to the front line services themselves. Mental health trusts provide most of the the mental health services including most psychiatric hospitals and outpatient services, with 90% of psychiatrists employed by a mental health trust. However, mental health trusts only received 6% of the increase in spending on mental health in 2016/2017. In England, 62% of mental health trusts (34 out of 55) at the end of 2016-17 reported lower income than the amount for 2011-12
Plus there is a great deal of discrepancy between areas. The reason for this is that the funding goes to the CCG (clinical commissioning group) who then decide how to distribute the funding they receive. Mental health funding is also distributed through GPs, local councils, private providers and the voluntary sector.
Another problem we have is that where the money goes exactly is not clear because the figures are not publicly available.
So, mental health awareness is a big deal nowadays and investment into mental health services has a lot of public support, which in turn means that politicians want to be seen to be taking it seriously and doing something about it. They announce increased funding for mental health services which is actually much less than it seems once inflation and increased demand is considered. Then, out of this not-so-fantastic increase in funding, only a small proportion is making it to the mental health trusts where it is really needed and where the public really see it making a difference.
Not ideal right?
But what can we do about this?
Well, this is where YOU can help.
Write to your CCG and your local MP. Tell them about your experiences with mental health services. Tell them about being sent to hospitals miles away from home because there were no available beds closer. Tell them about the year long waiting list for psychological therapy or the lack of follow up by community mental health team. Tell them that these things are a direct consequence of lack of funding, understaffing and budget cuts and tell them that they need to invest more.
We NEED your help.
You can find your CCG contact details here:
And details for your MP here: