Call for ambitious mental health targets

Public services such as the NHS, schools and transport should be set targets to reduce the financial burden of mental illness, according to mental health leaders.

Frontline workers, including teachers, police and judges, should also be given mental health training to prevent relatively minor illnesses becoming a bigger drain on resources, according to a report by the Future Vision Coalition.

The document, A New Vision for Mental Health, sets out the “moral and business case” for investing in mental health.

It says mental health problems cost employers more than £25bn a year and recommends creating a Cabinet minister responsible for mental health and a new public service agreement for mental health and wellbeing.

This could include a commitment from all government departments to reduce working days lost to mental illness and the number of antidepressive prescriptions, said Mental Health Network director Steve Shrubb, who chairs the coalition.

Mr Shrubb said: “This is the start of a debate with government and will have to fit with their policies, but if we don’t ask, we won’t get. We think that in the past people haven’t been ambitious enough.”

The coalition also comprises Mind, Together, Rethink, Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, Local Government Association, Mental Health Foundation, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and Mental Health Providers Forum.

The document is the group’s contribution to New Horizons, being published by the Department of Health later this year to replace the 10-year national service framework for mental health.

The vision calls for public sector workers to do prevention work in schools, workplaces, the armed forces, prisons, hospitals and care homes. Young children and families should receive parenting support, it says.

It also states that public services should “lead by example” by supporting employees who have mental health problems.

Asked whether cash strapped government departments would be prepared to fund health training, given that the DH is likely to be relatively protected from spending cuts, Mr Shrubb said there was a “strong financial argument” for local employers to invest in staff.