Statistics from Mind charity show that in England ‘1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year’ and ‘1 in 6 people report experiencing a common health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week’. Statistics from the Samaritans also show that ‘deaths by suicide rose by 10.9% in the UK in 2018’ and as of 2019 the suicide rate in England and Wales was ‘11 deaths per 100,000 people’ and in Scotland ‘16.6 deaths per 100,000’.
Understandably, there has been a focus on mental health and the need for more support for individuals experiencing mental health problems by charities and campaign groups, like Mind and the Samaritans, and by the media. Therefore, it’s important that you’re aware of how government policies and the NHS are addressing this problem, to support you to be able to discuss this topic, should it be a focus in your medical school interview.
The following is key information on mental health across the devolved nations:
‘Since 2013, NHS England has been working to improve the outcomes and experiences of people of all ages with mental health problems, to ensure that mental health is treated on par with physical health’.
Published in January 2019, the NHS Long Term Plan outlines the following key aims for mental health services in England:
According to NHS Wales ‘a quarter of us will experience mental health problems or illness at some point, having an enormous effect on those around us’; their website provides information on services and support for tackling mental health problems in Wales.
The Scottish Government states that ‘mental illness is one of the major public health challenges in Scotland’ and ‘improving mental health is a priority’; you can find more information about the actions they are taking to improve mental health here.
You can also find more information about mental health and wellbeing in Scotland on the Public Health Scotland website.
‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’; this definition of health from the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights the importance of mental wellbeing to ensure good health. Furthermore, NHS England claims that ‘improved mental health and wellbeing is associated with a range of better outcomes’ for individuals, including ‘improved physical health and life expectancy [and] reduced risk of mental health problems and suicide’. Combined with the fact that ‘mental ill health is the single largest cause of disability in the UK, contributing up to 22.8% of the total burden’, it’s clear why there is interest in providing services and support to improve the mental health and wellbeing of those who need it.
It is the aim of the NHS to promote health and wellbeing, which includes mental health. In addition to this, the ethical standards set by the General Medical Council (GMC) outlines a doctor’s duty to ‘make sure all patients receive good care and treatment that will support them to live as well as possible, whatever their illness or disability’.
Ensure that you research and understand the scale of mental health illnesses in the UK and how the government and the NHS are addressing these; the information provided above should be a good starting point for exploring these.
You may also find it useful and/or interesting to research some of the following areas further, to allow you to develop your discussion around mental health:
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