Reducing prevalence of mental illness is essential for our future

Statement / comment
25 June 2024

Cross-government prioritisation is needed to tackle the determinants of mental illness and enable people to build fulfilling lives. RCPsych will work with the next government to prevent mental illness across the population.

The College’s manifesto for Preventing Mental Illness reminds parties there is no health without mental health, and provides five focus areas for addressing the mental health crisis:

  • Reduce the prevalence of severe mental illness in the population.
  • Fund and resource mental health services to recover and expand capacity to meet growing demand.
  • Address the treatment and mortality gap for people with mental illness and severe mental illness.
  • Grow and support the wellbeing of the mental health workforce.
  • Prioritise mental health research and data collection to improve understanding and facilitate innovation. 

In response to the parties’ manifestos, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Lade Smith CBE said:

“We are pleased to see mental health featured in so many of the party-political manifestos. There are one in four people affected by mental illness and it's clear this is everybody’s business.

“We have consistently made the case that investing in people’s mental health is an investment in prosperity, and it is positive to see parties finally recognise this. Mental health problems are now the leading cause of working age disability, often affecting young people in their prime.

“The pandemic, global insecurity, financial insecurity, housing insecurity, increasing loneliness and isolation are among a number of factors that have led to a dramatic rise in people struggling with mental illness. These are serious illnesses that affect the lives of millions of people, but they can be prevented and treated effectively with timely access to mental healthcare services.

“We hope that the next government invests in appropriate evidence-based support to help those who are able to work, get back into, and stay in, good work. Our aspiration must be to support people experiencing a mental illness to live fulfilling lives.

“The College has also long called for changes to the Mental Health Act, and it is positive to see parties commit to bringing this forward. Black people are over three and a half times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act than White or White British people. Implementing the recommendations of the Wessely review will help to end this inequality.

“It is encouraging to see all parties recognising the need to improve mental health services and making the case for parity of esteem between mental and physical health.

“Parties also recognise the importance of the NHS workforce in delivering better services for patients. A healthy and happy workforce leads to better patient outcomes.

“To truly tackle the scale of the mental health crisis, we need to focus on preventing mental illness. Mental health services are currently overwhelmed by levels of demand - with 6.8 million referrals in England alone last year, up from 5.5 million in 2019/20.  Nearly one million of these were to CAMHS services alone, a rise of 143%.

“It is right that parties have recognised that children need mental health support at home, in school and in their communities. Most mental health problems emerge by the age of 14. If we catch symptoms earlier, we are more likely to stop them developing into chronic conditions.

“Reducing the prevalence of mental illness across the adult population and closing the mortality gap for people living with severe mental illness, will require joined-up polices that address social determinants. Mental health is inextricably linked to all aspects of life, from education and work to housing and transport, and will impact many departments’ agendas in the next government.

“We are pleased that parties are already starting to acknowledge these links and look forward to supporting the development of a truly cross-government approach to improving mental illness.”

Campaigning for better mental health policy

Our Policy and Campaigns team leads the College's work to improve mental health care through work with partner organisations – including the Mental Health Policy Group – and government.

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