A nationwide survey commissioned by the Royal College of Psychiatrists reveals the devastating impact of the pandemic on the nation’s mental health, with one in three (29%) adults reporting their mental health deteriorated over the past two years.
The UK-wide poll of 2,247 people suggests those with pre-existing mental health problems have been hit hardest – 81% said their mental health had deteriorated compared with two years ago.
Adults with a disability and those with prior physical health problems reported poorer mental health – 52% of people with a disability and 41% of those with a pre-existing physical health condition said their mental health had deteriorated since 2020.
The survey also found the pandemic affected people differently depending on their age - 42% of under 35s said their mental health had deteriorated compared with 10% of those aged 65 and above.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists says more needs to be done to prevent mental illness. The College is launching the Public Mental Health Implementation Centre to improve awareness and adoption of evidence-based programmes to prevent mental illness and improve resilience and wellbeing following the pandemic.
Dr Trudi Seneviratne, Registrar at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:
“The pandemic has exacted a heavy toll on the nation’s mental health with one in three people saying their mental health deteriorated over the past two years. There are proven strategies for preventing mental illness but a lack of funding and knowledge have stymied progress.
“The Public Mental Health Implementation Centre will boost awareness and adoption of evidence-based programmes that prevent mental illness. We must learn lessons for the future and the next pandemic. Investing in evidence-based prevention and protection programmes makes sense morally, medically and economically. It saves money and most importantly saves lives.”
Many mental health conditions are preventable with early intervention. One in three cases of mental illness in adults, for example, is attributed to childhood abuse, bullying and maltreatment. Every pound invested in early intervention delivers a three-fold return on investment and significantly improves outcomes. Just 2% of England’s public health budget is spent on mental health – in 2020/21, this amounted to £80.867m which is equivalent to £1.43 per person. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has called for significantly more funding for public mental health.
The Public Mental Health Implementation Centre will publish and provide advice to NHS commissioners, trusts and others on how to bridge this implementation gap. This will include identifying proven strategies to tackle the root causes of mental illness including inequality, barriers to treatment, discrimination, racism and poor physical health.
The Public Mental Health Implementation Centre will be launched at an event in Parliament on Wednesday 23 March.
Find out about the Public Mental Health Implementation Centre (PMHIC)
The PMHIC will review the evidence on public mental health and support the implementation of public mental health interventions across the UK. It will also support education for psychiatrists on public mental health.