Charity says public mental health spending is too low

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According to the charity Mind, local authorities within England spend too little on public mental health.

A report issued by the charity states that an average of only 1.4% of public health budgets is allocated to mental health.

Public Health England (PHE) has welcomed this report and stated that more investment should be made at the local level.

According to the Local Government Association, the councils do many positive things which have not been recognised in the report.

Public mental health should cover interventions to prevent mental health issues, ensure good physical health, and promote good mental health for those suffering with mental health problems.

The responsibility for public mental health was moved from primary care trust to local government during the NHS reforms in April 2013.

Of the 152 local authorities located in England, only 86 replied to the freedom of information requests from Mind.

The charity states that local authorities plan to spend £671m on sexual health services, £160m on anti-smoking campaigns and £76m on increasing physical activity, compared with £40m on public mental health, during 2015/15.

The charity stated that the prevention of mental health problems is as important as physical health, particularly for vulnerable groups.

The chief executive at Mind, Paul Farmer, said local authorities require guidance and support on how they should tackle mental health issues. He said they want the next government to introduce a national strategy which will ensure that local authorities are clear on what is required to be done and how to use their budgets to prevent the development of mental health problems.

The Local Government Association’s Councillor Izzi Seccombe said they welcome discussions about public mental health, but feel that the focus of the report was too narrow. He said councils do many things which have a positive impact on mental health, but it does not come with a ‘badge’ for mental health.

He added that they would be supportive of the development of a national strategy which focuses on promoting mental health, but would caution against any action that dictates how public health teams and local authorities should use their budgets.

During 2015 Mind plans to train beauty therapists, restaurant staff and pub landlords to spot the signs of those struggling with mental health issues and to offer them advice on local support services.

The project is due to be implemented in Oldham, Glossop and Tameside and is using a similar scheme in Norfolk as its base. In 2015, a team in Norfolk trained in excess of 200 people in mental health first aid skills, listening techniques and methods of identifying the symptoms and signs of common mental health problems.

Image Credit: Allan Ajifo

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