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Does mental health matter?

The World Health Organization defines mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

Mental health has featured in a lot of news stories recently. It is alarming to learn about murderous attacks carried out by people with mental illness but thankfully such outrages are very rare. What really concerns me are headlines like these, from the last few months:

Veterans' mental health: Referrals rise by 26% (BBC News)

Children bullied by peers ‘at greater mental health risk’ - Study argues that bullying carried out by other children is five times more likely to cause anxiety as neglect or abuse at home (Guardian, reporting a Lancet study)

Mental health issues affecting more children, teachers say (ITV News)

Clarke Carlisle says Premier League footballers hide mental illness for fear of being dropped (Mirror)

1,400 child abuse suspects identified (BBC News)

Mental health matters to all of us, one way or another, all the time; at some times in our lives, or often, it can become something we need some help with. No-one expects to get through life without a physical illness or disabilty and we expect help and support when we need it.

Another recent topic in the news has been "parity of esteem" - valuing mental health equally with physical health.

NHS England points out:

  • Mental illnesses are very common

  • Among people under 65, nearly half of all ill health is mental illness

  • Mental illness is generally more debilitating than most chronic physical conditions.

  • Mental health problems impose a total economic and social cost of over £105bn a year

  • Yet, only a quarter of all those with mental illness such as depression are in treatment

  • We tend to view physical and mental health treatment in separate silos in health services

  • People with poor physical health are at higher risk of experiencing mental health problems…

  • …and people with poor mental health are more likely to have poor physical health

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