According to data collated by the charity Mind, less than 1% of local authorities’ public health budget is spent preventing mental health problems.
The need for mental healthcare is more important than ever, as one in four people will be affected by mental health every year. Previous research has indicated that women are up to 40% more likely than men to develop mental health conditions, and in particular pregnant women and ethnic minorities are now at greater risk of not receiving the necessary help.
Making use of the Freedom of Information Act, Mind found that the proportion of health budgets spent on preventing mental health problems has fallen year on year for the last three years.
The investigation also showed that some regions do not plan to spend any money on preventing mental ill health in the forthcoming year.
In a statement, the charity said: “While local authorities spend millions of pounds on physical health programmes, Mind’s findings show that most areas of the country spend close to nothing on preventing mental health problems.”
The government’s budget for local authorities’ public health expenditure in 2016-17 totaled £3.32m. Of that, roughly 20% was spent on sexual health services, whilst 3% was spent on preventing obesity.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, commented:
“Our research shows that the current spend on public mental health initiatives is negligible. This can’t continue.
“Prevention is always better than cure and ignoring the problem simply doesn’t make sense.
“One in four people will experience a mental health problem every year, yet so much of this could be prevented by targeted programmes aimed at groups we know to be at risk, such as pregnant women, people who are isolated, people from black and minority ethnic and rural communities, or those living with a long term physical health problem.”
From April 2017, local authorities must report what they spend on mental health. Currently, the data is filed under “miscellaneous” along with fourteen other areas of spending. In figures recently published by the government for 2016-17’s public health budget, just 47,000 of the £3.5m total has been designated for mental health.
Mental health problems are the largest cause of burden of disease in the UK, according to the Mental Health Foundation.