The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) has published a compelling bank of evidence showing why public health strategies cannot afford to ignore mental health. The position statement, No health without public mental health: the case for action, shows that:
- People with a mental disorder smoke almost half of all tobacco consumed in the UK and account for almost half of all smoking-related deaths.
- Depression doubles the risk of developing coronary heart disease.
- People with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder die an average 20 years earlier than the general population, largely owing to physical health problems.
- People with two or more long-term physical illnesses have a 7 times greater risk of depression.
- Children from the poorest households have a three-fold greater risk of mental ill health than children from the richest households.
RCPsych President Professor Dinesh Bhugra said: “Historically, government public health strategies have concentrated on physical health and overlooked the importance of both mental illness and mental well-being. But there is no health without mental health. There is vast evidence to show that mental illness is associated with a greater risk of physical illness – and physical illness in turn increases the risk of mental illness. It’s clear that strategies to improve the health of the nation will only be effective if they address mental health and wellbeing as well.”
In the position statement, the RCPsych calls on the Coalition government to make a series of important policy changes, including:
- Tackling substance addiction through a minimum alcohol pricing policy and an evidence-based addictions policy.
- Prioritising mental health within smoking cessation programmes.
- Targeting public mental health interventions for people at higher risk, for example children in care and those who are unemployed or homeless.
- Promoting the importance of mental health and well-being in older age.
Professor Bhugra said: “Earlier this month, a study revealed that mental illness costs the economy £105 billion a year in England alone, and is the single largest source of burden of disease. Including mental health at the heart of the public health agenda will improve people’s lifestyles and reduce health-risk behaviours, thereby both preventing physical illness and reducing the burden of mental illness on society.”
He continued: “Our new position statement makes clear recommendations for political action and policy change. I hope that the evidence we present today can persuade government at all levels, as well as wider society, of the need for action and the benefits it will bring.”
Responding the launch of this new report, Care Service Minister, Paul Burstow MP, said “The Government is clear that there is no health without mental health. That is why we will publish both a public health White Paper and mental health strategy that will break new ground. If the right action is taken early in people’s lives, it’s possible to make a big difference. The right support at the right time can help people realise their potential, cope with adversity and hold down a job. This is good for the individual and good for society too.”
Telephone: 020 7235 2351 Extensions. 6298 or 6127
Note to editors:
The new position statement, No health without public mental health: the case for change, was published on 26 October by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.