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Mental Health

Mental Health is about how we think, feel and behave.  We all experience feelings of fear, anxiety and sadness; and we all experience difficult life events, such as bereavement; divorce; debt; bullying and harassment.

Mental illness is when these feelings and difficulties become so severe and/or enduring that they impact upon our ability to cope with everyday life and relationships, or overwhelm us to the point that we are unable to function.  This is when it may be time to seek medical support.  For many of us, the first point of reference will be our GP.

Mental illness is very common and can affect anyone.  In the UK, 1 person in 4 has a mental illness at some point; every year more than 250,000 people are admitted to psychiatric hospitals and over 4,000 people commit suicide.  Like physical illness, mental ill health has many forms and can present as anything from depression, stress, schizophrenia, or dementia through to feeling suicidal and/or experiencing mental breakdown.  Most people recover, but for some, their condition has long-term effects, so much so that it is considered a disability.

There are many forms of medical support available, including talking therapies; behavioural therapies and in some cases medication – often these will be offered in combination.  Your GP may refer you to specialist services such as a community mental health team which consists of psychiatrists, counsellors and therapists who will work with you to help you find ways of managing your illness.  Many support groups and charities offer advice, counselling and information about the types of treatment available and where to get help.  If you are worried about your mental health, or the mental health of someone close to you, it is important to seek support – don’t suffer in silence.


Fundamental Facts About Mental Health

The Mental Health Foundation has published its Fundamental Facts 2015 document - a resource for everyone interested in mental health and prevention.  Some key facts from this edition:

  • Mental health problems are one of the main causes of the burden of disease worldwide.  I the UK, they are responsible for 28% of the total burden, compared to 16% each for cancer and heart disease.
  • One in four people in the UK will experience a mentla health problem in any given year.
  • Mental health services in the UK are overstretched, have long waiting times and in some regions lack specialist services.  Despite this, public spending is focussed almost entirely on coping with crisis, with only an insignificant investment in prevention.
  • Around 50% of women with perinatal mental health problems are not identified or treated.
  • Paternal mental health is also of crucial importance.  Postnatal depression in fathers has been associated with emotional and behavioural problems in their child.
  • Ten per cent of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental problem yet 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.
  • In England, women are more likely than men to have a common mental health problem and are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders.
  • The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that, in 2013, 6233 suicides were recorded in the UK for people aged 15 and older.  Of these, 78% were male and 22% were female.
  • A 2006 UK Inquiry identified 5 key factors that affect mental health and wellbeing for older people, these were: discrimination, participation in meaningful activities, relationships, physical health and poverty.
  • Common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are distributted according to a gradient of economic disadvantage across society with the poorer and more disadvantaged disproportionately affected from common mental health problems and their adverse consequences.
  • In the UK, 70 million days are lost from work each year due to mental ill health, making it the leading cause of sickness absence.
  • There are strong links between physical and mental health problems.  A 2012 report by The King's Fund found that 30% of people with a long-term physical health problem also had a mental health problem and 46% of people with mental health problem also had a long-term physical health problem.

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