Prevention over reaction should be the priority for mental health support

A series of recommendations have been made by the Mental Health Policy Commission in their Investing in a Resilient Generation document. Within this paperwork is an overwhelming call for more funding and priority to be directed towards preventative measures rather than reactive support for mental health problems.
The documentation leads with a series of startling statistics:

  • Mental health illnesses cost 4.5% of the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP). This equates to £70 – £100 billion per year.
  • 10% of children have a diagnosable mental health problem. 50% of all problems manifest by the age of 14 and 75% transpire by the age of 24.
  • Only 1p of every 7p spent on mental health is utilised for preventative measures. 75% of children do not get access to the support they need and the average waiting time between the onset of the first symptom and receiving support is ten years.
  • There is strong evidence that early interventions make a positive impact.

With an estimation that for ‘all young people to receive support from specialist mental health services would require approximately 23,800 additional staff at an estimated cost of £1.77 billion,’ closing the gap with reactive measures appears almost impossible and not financially viable.
Therefore, the report outlines four key areas that should be supported to transform the growing issue of mental health in the UK. Firstly, it is suggested that funds should be allocated to support social infrastructure and parenting programmes for ‘positive family, peer and community relationships.’ Similarly, vulnerable families should have access to a ‘secure base’ to minimise adverse experiences and exclusions.’
An area that Evolve Health Mentors work closely with is ‘mentally friendly education and employment.’ Recommendations have been made for ‘whole-school social and emotional learning programmes’ to be enforced, an aspect that can currently be supported by Project HE:RO. ‘Supporting successful transitions’ is also notified, with some schools already working on this area with the help of XLR8 courses. ‘Responding early and responding well to the first signs of distress’ is the fourth key area to be pinpointed.
The report identifies five ‘call to action’ responses to underpin these areas of change:

  1. Investing in whole-system change – ‘national and local government must work together to mobilise the public and private sectors, civil society, and academia to tackle the causes of poor mental health in young people.’
  2. Making early action more prominent – including parenting programmes, perinatal support, whole-school social and emotional wellbeing programmes and work wellbeing support.
  3. Funding early action – ‘the Commission believes that the 2019 Spending Review should allocate resources to front-end loading investment in a radical up-scaling [of preventative measures].’
  4. Get started as early as possible – ‘identify ‘quick wins’ that can capitalise on local resources and enthusiasm – and that can deliver immediate benefits (such as whole-school approaches to social and emotional learning) as well as improve long-term mental health outcomes.’
  5. Research, monitor and evaluate – ‘a combination of different research approaches is needed to help demonstrate proof of concept and proof of scalability.’

The report concludes with the line ‘to neglect mental illness in young people is not only morally unacceptable but also an enormous economic mistake.’ Prioritising prevention over reaction appears to be the way forward.