The state of mental health in the UK: Where are we going wrong?

By Erin Hallett, Head of Alumni Relations, Imperial College Business School  

Today is World Mental Health Day.

Every year on 10 October healthcare professionals, advocates, patients and other stakeholders come together to raise awareness of global mental health issues and encourage efforts in support of mental health. The World Federation for Mental Health has set this year’s theme as mental health inthe workplace.  

Mental health is a topical issue in the UK and firmly under the microscope of government. Prime Minister Theresa May said in January this year that, “For too long mental illness has been something of a hidden injustice in our country, shrouded in completely unacceptable stigma and dangerously disregarded as a secondary issue to physical health.” Last week in her speech at the Conservative Party Conference, the Prime Minister announced they will be launching a review of the Mental Health Act to address the established injustices in the system. The government has also recently committed to additional funding in support of mental, both for the NHS and for the private sector.

The government’s response can’t come soon enough. Mental health statistics in the UK are alarming.

These statistics only tell part of the story of mental health in the UK and around the world. Despite the fact that they obviously prove an urgent need for action and reform, mental health is still often considered the “Cinderella service of the NHS.” Professionals worry that physical and mental health problems aren’t treated with the same degree of seriousness and patients often face stigma.

And there doesn’t look to be any immediate relief from these challenges. 

The findings of a recent report by NHS Providers, referenced in this Guardian article, found that mental health services are overwhelmed by increased demands from patients and longer waits for treatment. Quoting from this article, “These concerns point to a growing gap between the government’s welcome ambition for the care of people with mental health needs and the reality of services they are receiving on the frontline,” said Saffron Cordery, NHS Providers’ director of policy and strategy.  She added, “In some cases core mental health service provision by mental health trusts is actually getting worse.”

As members of the Imperial College community, we have the power to advocate for change and help end stigma around mental illness. Imperial College London is committed to promoting positive mental health and wellbeing and included it as a priority in their Strategy 2015-2020. The College also offers and signposts to a variety of mental health resources, as well as offering Mental Health First Aid training for staff to support colleagues and students. 

Imperial College Business School’s Healthcare Professional Interest Network originated as a forum to bring attention to topical issues, like mental health, and create a space for intelligent debate and discussion. For the last seven years, they have hosted numerous successful events and grown an expanding global network through their LinkedIn group

The Network’s next event is on the evening on 9 November and is titled, The state of mental health in the UK: Where are we going wrong? They have attracted a panel of experts, including Sir Simon Wessely, FMEdSci, King’s College London Regius Professor, Stuart Mulheron, Commercial Lead Neuroscience at Johnson & Johnson, and David Gilbert, Patient Leader, InHealth Associates. They will discuss the current mental healthcare situation in the UK and the many challenges this critical area faces. 

We invite everyone to join us for this important discussion that we are confident will encourage future events on the topic of mental health. We all have a part to play in bringing light to this “hidden injustice.”

Please register to attend the event here. 

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