Occupational health and workplace wellbeing specialists are being urged to help inform a new 10-year plan to put mental and physical health on equal footing.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has put out a call for evidence, which applies to England, on how the onset of mental ill-health can be prevented; how positive mental wellbeing can be promoted; how people with mental health conditions can live well; and how help for people in crisis can be improved.
Its discussion paper states that too many people, particularly young people, do not have the right tools and support to look after their own wellbeing or to get the early help they need for mental ill-health prevention.
Around one in five UK adults experienced some form of depression in the first three months of 2021, over double pre-pandemic figures, according to the DHSC.
Mental ill-health prevention
“Too many people’s daily practical, social and emotional needs are not being met. This can put people, especially groups that face entrenched disparities, at much greater risk of developing a mental health condition or jeopardise their recovery,” it says.
“We have further to go in understanding and delivering ‘what works’ to treat mental health conditions, and crucially we are often intervening too late when people have reached crisis point.”
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said: “The pandemic put unprecedented pressure on people across the country. While we continue to expand and transform our mental health services under the NHS Long Term Plan to meet rising demand, we know we need to go further.”
Javid added that the 10-year mental health plan seeks to complement and extend the work set out in the NHS Long Term Plan. Although the NHS plays an important role in identifying, diagnosing, treating and supporting people with mental health conditions, and there are also a range of public, private and community services that can offer support, including workplaces, job centres and education settings.
Rebuilding mental health post-pandemic
Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, said a cross-government plan will “play a key role in making sure support for our mental health starts to be rebuilt post-pandemic to the same level as for our physical health”.
Our mental health doesn’t exist in a silo. It’s influenced by the quality of our relationships, education and housing, the fairness of our justice system, the security of our income and the health of our communities.” – Mark Rowland, Mental Health Foundation
“Mind has long been calling for a more joined-up approach from government to mental health, one which follows the evidence of what works in areas like benefits, education and housing to build a better future for us all, and reduces the glaring racial and social inequalities that persist in mental health,” he said.
Mark Rowland, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “We welcome the government’s recognition that our mental health doesn’t exist in a silo. It’s influenced by the quality of our relationships, education and housing, the fairness of our justice system, the security of our income and the health of our communities.
“A well-resourced whole-government plan for mental health is the pioneering step we need for building the mentally healthy society we all want: where mental health is an asset to be nurtured, rather than a problem to be treated.”
Professor Subodh Dave, Dean at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said society needs to do “much more to ensure everyone has access to quality education, employment, health care and housing which all impact mental health”.
“While action on prevention and promotion are welcome, the government must also address the crisis in mental health services. Demand on services has exploded since the start of the pandemic, and people with mental illnesses are being failed by unacceptably long waiting times. Ensuring mental health services have the resources and staffing to meet future demand is essential to delivering the government’s commitment to put mental and physical health on equal footing,” said Prof Dave.