Mental health must also go to the top of the research agenda | Mary OHara Alongside improvements in care for people with mental health problems, research into causes and treatments must be prioritised.
Many things are unprecedented about the run-up to next years general election, but perhaps one of the least anticipated is the prominence mental health has acquired. There has been something of a slow-motion pile-up aspect to mental health care over the past few years, as reports of the devastating effects of cuts, including chronic bed shortages and patients put at risk have kept on coming. Despite ministerial overtures lately about parity of esteem between mental and physical health, ask people in need of counselling or of a bed on an acute ward if provision is meeting needs and the answer will be an unequivocal No.
When party leaders begin raising the issue at their annual conferences its a signal that something fundamental might be occurring. Last week Nick Clegg used his keynote conference speech to announce a £120m cash injection to improve mental health services and pledged, among other things, to reduce waiting times and ensure better integration between A&E and psychiatric services, an area of escalating concern. With the chief medical officer reporting last month that the number of working days lost to stress, depression and anxiety shot up by 24% since 2009 and that 75% of people who have a mental illness receive no treatment at all, it is clear there are huge gaps in what is an overstretched system. Continue reading... The Guardian