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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Human rights, cuts & recession

Wednesday, 8 August


What a joy it was to travel down on the train from Manchester yesterday with so many families en route to the triathlon, which took place just round the corner from the College HQ in Belgrave Square. It was a really good atmosphere – what a sharp contrast with the mental health and human rights news this week.


On Tuesday authorities in Texas executed a prisoner, Marvin Wilson, despite arguments that his low IQ meant he was “too mentally impaired” to receive the death penalty. This is a moral outrage and goes against a ruling issued by the US Supreme Court in 1992 outlawing the execution of the mentally impaired.


Then today, reports emerged that mental health spending has fallen for the first time in 10 years. In total, spending on mental health services in England dropped £150m – the first fall since 2001. I am keen to address this issue with the government, as it flies in the face of what they have committed to. Although the Department of Health has pointed out that investment in psychological therapies has increased significantly in real terms by 6%, this spending reduction cannot be dismissed – however successful or otherwise the IAPT programme may prove to be over time. Nor can it be dismissed by the local and focal mantra.


This is about patients with mental illness being denied the sustained access to services and treatment that they need, compounded by often being in demographic groups with the most adverse social determinants that mitigate against recovery.  


In my blog on 27 July, I told you that I was working with the Mental Health Collaborative to build up a solid picture of workforce changes across mental health nursing, psychology, occupational therapy and social work. We should also have our own workforce census out shortly.


And more gloomy news today with reports that the Bank of England has cut its growth forecast to close to zero. The BBC reports that the double-dip recession is intensifying. We know that both mental and physical health are negatively affected by economic downturns, and mental health is more vulnerable to harm than physical health.


We have a survey on our website about how the recession has affected people’s mental health. It is still early days in terms of results, but the responses we’ve received so far are starting to indicate that the recession is impacting on patients and their families. And of course there is the additional stressor of the new assessment processes for those people on benefits. We will continue building up a picture of the situation, and I’ll of course keep you updated.



If you would like to post a response to Sue's blog, please email your message to the Website Manager, who will be pleased to upload it to website.

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