Call for new initiatives to tackle mental health

Psychiatrists today warned the government that it could not afford to ignore mental health issues when forming the new public health strategy.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists claimed placing mental health at the heart of the new health plan would save millions of pounds, in a report released today.

Its president, Professor Dinesh Bhugra said: "Historically, government public health strategies have concentrated on physical health and overlooked the importance of both mental illnesses and mental well-being. But there is no health without mental health."

The report claims there is an intrinsic link between mental and physical illness and that Britain's health would only improve if mental health and well-being were properly addressed.

"There is vast evidence to show that mental illness is associated with a greater risk of physical illness - and physical illness in turn increases the risk of mental illness," added the professor.

A study earlier this month revealed that mental illness costs the English economy £105 billion a year.

The college's report shows that people with mental disorders smoke almost half of all tobacco consumed in the UK and account for half of all smoking-related deaths.

Statistics also show depression doubles the risk of developing coronary heart disease and that people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder die 20 years earlier than average.

The college is now calling on the Coalition to make a series of policy changes when it unveils the new public health strategy later this year.

They include prioritising mental health patients in anti-smoking programmes and promoting the importance of mental health issues in older aged sufferers.

Professor Bhugra added: "Including mental health at the heart of the public health agenda will improve people's lifestyles and reduce health-risk behaviours, thereby both preventing physical illness and reducing the burden of mental illness on society."

Responding to the new report, care service minister Paul Burstow said the health strategy would break new ground.

"The government is clear that there is no health without mental health," he said.

"If the right action is taken early in people's lives, it's possible to make a big difference."

Care Service Minister Paul Burstow said: "The Government is clear that there is no health without mental health.

"That is why we will publish both a public health White Paper and mental health strategy that will break new ground.

"If the right action is taken early in people's lives it's possible to make a big difference. The right support at the right time can help people realise their potential, cope with adversity and hold down a job. This is good for the individual and good for society too."

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