April 13, 2024

The economic cost of our crumbling mental health has finally become clear

The Government has increased its spending on NHS mental health services, introduced a new suicide prevention strategy, published plans to set up early support hubs and bring in more NHS mental health staff. But it is evidently too little too late.

An NHS psychiatrist says those in crisis are waiting several days for a bed and are often discharged too early, meaning there can be high readmission rates. GPs have such little time with patients that it’s “almost impossible” to assess and treat them properly given the complexity of cases, with many issues stemming from “financial challenges, housing issues, lack of social support and lack of community provisions”. People with anxiety and depression can then wait many months before accessing any sort of support.

Drastic public sector cuts have worsened Britain’s mental health crisis, particularly following the pandemic and amid cost of living pressures. Researchers at Liverpool University last year concluded that local authority cuts to cultural, environmental and planning services such as parks and libraries are associated with more people experiencing poor mental health, a point that they argued was often “minimised” in wider discussions about public sector cuts.

In the last decade, around 800 libraries and almost 800 playgrounds have closed across the country. A coalition of charities and think tanks last year urged ministers to think more widely when it comes to improving the nation’s worsening mental health, taking more action against junk food, smoking, alcohol and gambling, ending “hostile environment” immigration policies and doing more to tackle child poverty.

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