Psychiatrists call for more funding to prevent mental ill health as survey reveals toll of pandemic

Leading psychiatrists are calling for more funding to prevent mental ill health after a poll found one in three Britons have been feeling down and depressed over the last two years.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is launching a Public Mental Health Implementation Centre to improve awareness and introduce programmes to prevent mental illness and increase wellbeing following the pandemic.

Its poll of 2,247 adults in the UK found that 29% feel their mental health has deteriorated over the past two years.

Those with pre-existing mental health problems have been hit hardest, with 81% saying their mental health has deteriorated compared with two years ago.

Adults with a disability and those with prior physical health problems reported poorer mental health – 52% of people with a disability and 41% of those with a pre-existing condition.

The poll also found that younger people were more likely to suffer, with 42% of under-35s saying their mental health has deteriorated over the last two years compared with 10% of those aged 65 and above.

Dr Trudi Seneviratne (pictured), registrar at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “The pandemic has exacted a heavy toll on the nation’s mental health.

“There are proven strategies for preventing mental illness but a lack of funding and knowledge have stymied progress.

“The Public Mental Health Implementation Centre will boost awareness and adoption of evidence-based programmes that prevent mental illness.

“We must learn lessons for the future and the next pandemic. Investing in evidence-based prevention and protection programmes makes sense morally, medically and economically. It saves money and most importantly saves lives.”

Many mental health conditions are preventable if help is given early. One in three cases of mental illness in adults is attributed to childhood abuse, bullying and maltreatment.

Figures analysed by the college show that just 2% of England’s public health budget is spent on mental health – in 2020/21, this amounted to £80.867 million which is equivalent to £1.43 per person.

Local authorities control public health budgets with funding from central Government and this differs to the money held by the NHS for mental health.

The new centre aims to promote public mental health rather than just looking to treatment. It will consider prevention, early intervention and promoting healthy lifestyles.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “We are committed to ensuring everyone is able to access the help and advice they need, which is why we are investing an additional £2.3 billion a year into mental health services by 2023/24, on top of the £500 million we have made available to address the impact of the pandemic.

“We will be launching a national conversation to inform the development of a new long-term mental health plan later this year.

“Mental health services are there for those who need them, so if you need support or are concerned about someone else, please reach out for help.”

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