Priority 1: Reduce the prevalence

This is the first of five priorities we've included in Preventing mental illness, our manifesto for the next UK General Election.

Reduce the prevalence of severe mental illness in the population

Mental ill-health can impact everyone. In England, one in four adults and one in six under-18s experience at least one episode of mental illness each year, which can have far-reaching and detrimental impacts over the course of a person’s life. From 2019 to 2022, the prevalence of possible mental disorder among adults increased from 17% to 27% in Scotland1 2. Between 2017 and 2022, rates of probable mental disorder among 17- to 19-year-olds more than doubled from 10% to 26% and increased in children aged 7-16 years from 12% to 18% in England.

We know that inequalities give rise to mental illness. People from minoritised ethnic backgrounds are more likely to experience severe mental illness and less likely to receive care and support when they need it. Those from socially deprived backgrounds, including in remote and rural areas, as well as those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender diverse, are at greater risk of mental ill-health.

The climate and ecological crisis poses a catastrophic threat to public mental health and is already leading to an increase in the prevalence of mental illness and exacerbating pre-existing mental illness.


Introduce and commit to a target to reduce the prevalence of mental health conditions and severe mental illness in all age groups across the UK.


  1. Scottish Government, Scottish Health Survey 2022 Main Report, Volume 1
  2. Scottish Government, Scottish Health Survey 2019 Main Report, Volume 1
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