Mental health problems cost Wales £7.2bn

A report by the All Wales Mental Health Promotion Network has estimated that mental health problems cost Wales to be £7.2 billion.

A report by the All Wales Mental Health Promotion Network has estimated that mental health problems cost Wales £7.2 billion. The network, described by NHS Wales as the assembly government’s “flagship” initiative for promoting the mental wellbeing of the people of Wales, also found that despite mental illness accounting for 20 per cent of the total burden of health conditions, it received just 12.2 per cent of all public spending on health and social care in Wales.

The report continues:

• Preventing Conduct Disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children who are the most disturbed could save £150,000 per case in lifetime costs;

Promoting positive mental health in those children with some conduct problems would lead to benefits of approximately £75,000 per case;

• Investment in pre-school interventions such as support for parents would be the most effective mechanism for promoting mental health, and should be a priority for policy makers; and

• “There is a need for more consistent definition and measurement of mental health, to untangle the many different influences on mental wellbeing and to improve data on both the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of interventions.”

Figures from the NHS suggest a quarter of British citizens will, at some point in their lives, be affected by mental ill health.

In publishing the report, the network’s chair, Professor Sir Mansel Aylward, said:

“It is not just important that we help people overcome and avoid mental illness – we should also promote people’s general wellbeing in life, which has major benefits. Subjective wellbeing increases life expectancy by seven-and-a-half years.

“It provides a similar degree of protection from heart disease to giving up smoking. It improves recovery and health outcomes from a range of chronic diseases, such as diabetes. In young people it significantly influences the use of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis.

“A positive disposition also predicts positive social behaviour, such as participation, civic engagement and volunteering.”

And, speaking to the BBC, Colette Dawkins from Port Talbot bravely described how earlier intervention could have addressed her depression at a much earlier stage:

“My psychiatrist always stopped me from working. Consequently, whenever I became well and motivated myself to pick up my career again, he always stopped me at the medical stage from getting jobs, and I haven’t worked since 1986.

“I think if I’d worked for a different company and had a lot of support, not just going off on the sick and coming back to all the problems again, it might have been a different story altogether.”

Last month the Welsh assembly gained the powers needed improve mental health services across Wales. As such, responding to the report, the chief medical officer for Wales, Dr Tony Jewell, said:

“I welcome this analysis of the benefits of promoting mental health in Wales and I have emphasised the need for a greater focus on mental health in Wales.

“This not only applies to NHS services that treat people with mental health problems but also to improving the mental health and wellbeing of the population through activities in all sectors.”

Yesterday, Left Foot Forward reported the significant pain and financial constraints likely to face public services across Wales. Felicity Waters, formerly health correspondent for the Western Daily Mail has said  a civilised society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens.

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