Book News: May 31st, 2007

By Louis ApplebyEmployment, housing and a strong social network are as important to a person’s mental health as the treatment they receive. Louis Appleby, the National Director for Mental Health, explains why we have to continue to improve community care and break down the barriers that can prevent people from rebuilding their lives

At any given time nearly a sixth of all adults are experiencing depression or anxiety. Mental illness accounts for a third of all illness in Britain. More than 1.3m older people have a mental illness such as depression and this figure will rise as the age of the population increases. The total cost to the nation of mental ill-health is as high as 77bn pounds each year in lost earnings, productivity and reduced quality of life. But the true cost to a person’s life is almost incalculable. Unemployment, homelessness and destroyed relationships are just some of the potential consequences of mental illness.

The next phase of reform is removing barriers. The task ahead is to extend reform to the mental health of the community more broadly. To do that, we need to remove the barriers and boundaries that could stand in the way of change, barriers that many of us have grown up with and grown used to. There is the boundary between mental health services and agencies that offer employment and training, better housing and social support. There is the boundary between primary and secondary care.

Patients who needed psychological therapies have previously been referred by a GP to a hospital-based specialist.

A programme to improve the availability of psychological therapies is based on a new model of service – a single care pathway that allows patients to receive the treatment they need – according to the severity of their illness and how they initially respond to treatment. This will provide quicker treatment without referral for some and easier access to a specialist for others.

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