Why mental health issues must be caught early

We hear it all the time; they should pull themselves together, just get over it, nothing that a good smack wouldn’t sort out. It’s just attention seeking.

All this ignorance and misinformation spread by people who either have no direct understanding of the devastating effect of mental illness on a person and their family or are willfully denying the existence of that illness.

Either way, it’s damaging and ignorant, where most that hold such views are regurgitating what they’ve heard over the years, what’s been reported in the media and see changes in society as being weak, politically correct nonsense, not based in reality. The world is changing, these people not catching up, nor helping.

I suffer from depression and anxiety. Over the years, it has cost me personally and I am still dealing with the after effects of two breakdowns in a year. Since I now have more than a passing interest, I wanted to see exactly the effect on people and society of my illness. I did some research and came up with some startling data.

In the UK, 1 in 4 people will suffer mental health issues.
From a global burden of disease study, mental health (MH) illness in the UK accounts for 28% of the burden, higher than 16% for cancer and cardiac issues.
Services are greatly overstretched, the focus being on crisis and not on prevention, with 5.5% of the total research budget in the UK going to MH.

That means that money is flowing into dealing with people who have the disease, while early diagnosis and intervention can reduce the numbers significantly. 10% of children aged 5-16 are clinically diagnosable, yet over two thirds of those go undetected.
Keep this in mind, as I will come back to it.

Let me put impact in stark terms:

70 million work days a year in the UK are lost to MH, with the estimated costs between £70 to £100 billion, 4.5% of the GDP. This is greater than cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, cancer, and diabetes on their own.

This is a massive problem at not only on a personal level, but nationally, it has a massive impact. This could all be reduced with focus on early prevention being increased and properly funded.

I recently read an article in the UK media where a study recognised that there is a gap in the funding for schools relating to mental health and this is having a significant problem as early diagnosis of issues is not happening. It’s a positive step to recognise there is an issue. Funding has been withdrawn for psychologists and trained staff to work with schools to identify issues leading to early diagnosis in children.

Think about it, those figures I mentioned earlier that over two thirds of children with issues go without diagnosis or early intervention. These are the adults of tomorrow that 1 in 4 will suffer MH issues, at great personal cost to themselves, society and the economy, so it must make sense on virtually every level that a programme is brought in, properly funded, to identify early where attention is needed. The benefits to everyone are potentially large and although long term, we can expect to see results that are measurable and tangible.

To me, it is definitely worth pursuing a programme of early diagnosis and intervention in schools which can only be for the good of children. We have to remove the stigma and stain of ignorance in society in relation to MH issues, as it is the only way that we will actually have a chance to deal with it properly. It’s changing, slowly, but there is some way to go. There are higher instances of MH illness than cancer or cardiac disease, yet we don’t hear anyone with cancer being told to suck it up, just get on with it, give yourself a shake.

The same respect and compassion for mental health issues would be a very welcome development in society.

Be kind to yourself.

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3 thoughts on “Why mental health issues must be caught early

  1. As the child of someone with significant mental health problems I was living with a huge taboo in the 70s. I faced some very traumatic situations in secrecy and isolation. I had parents who loved me so I was more fortunate than many. Still I’ve had my own mental health difficulties. And unbelievably the stigma still exists to a large degree. People thinking it shows weakness and adding shame to people who face mental health battles daily. Surely we don’t want this for children?

    As a mental health professional I see young adults coming into services very damaged. Early education and intervention is the key. It’s an investment in the future of individuals and society.

    Thank you A&B – the message needs to be out.

    Like

    1. Thanks, Brawburd.
      Delighted you agree as I really value your opinion, plus your story.
      Makes it real, more personal and shows the real effect of ignorance in society.
      We really need to be doing this and sharpish. I understand the complexities of commissioning such a large programme but this is vital for the future of a large part of our society.

      Like

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