Psychiatrists call for fair deal on mental health

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 02 July 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a631
  1. Lynn Eaton
  1. 1London

    The UK Royal College of Psychiatrists has launched a three year campaign to tackle inequalities in mental health.

    Mental health services, it says, have continued to lag behind those for physical health despite increased investment by the government in recent years. Key problems, it says, include funding shortages, limited access to services, poor inpatient services, and widespread discrimination.

    “On the 60th anniversary of the NHS the challenge is clear,” said Sheila Hollins, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. “We asked our members and the college’s networks of service users and carers to tell us what they thought. A recurring theme in their responses was that people with mental health problems and learning disabilities do not get a fair deal. Although there has been real progress, particularly in the last decade, they are still not afforded equal dignity and respect as other citizens.”

    According to the campaign, one in four older people living in the community have symptoms of depression severe enough to warrant help, but only half are diagnosed and treated. A third of substance misuse patients with mental health needs do not receive any interventions.

    It also shows that many inpatients stay in hospital for months without needing to be there while they wait for transfer to local authority accommodation.

    And mental health research receives 6.5% of total research funding, compared with 25% for research into cancer and 15% for neurological diseases, the college adds.

    The college’s incoming president, Dinesh Bhugra, said that he wanted to work with others, not just clinicians, to bring about the changes needed.

    “As psychiatrists we have an opportunity and a professional responsibility to help shape the services in which we work and advocate for service users and carers. But no change can or should happen alone. That is why through our Fair Deal for Mental Health campaign we want to work closely with anyone who shares our vision.”

    The campaign’s manifesto calls for more funding of research into mental illness, better access to services, better inpatient care, better provision for recovery and rehabilitation, an end to discrimination and stigma, more engagement with users and carers, and better access to psychological therapies. There should also be a greater acknowledgement of the link between physical and mental health, it says.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:a631

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