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Time to treat mental and physical illness with equal importance

Everyone who works in healthcare needs to treat physical and mental health with equal importance, say the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) and the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych).
The call comes on World Mental Health Day, when FPH is launching Better Mental Health for All, a new resource to support mental wellbeing and prevent mental illness.

Professor John Ashton, President of the Faculty of Public Health, said: “People with serious mental illness are dying, on average, 20 years younger than the general population. (1) They are twice as likely to have diabetes, and people with schizophrenia are ten times more likely to die from respiratory disease.

“Given that 40% of all tobacco is smoked by people with mental illness, it is a scandal that they are less likely to be given support to quit. If cancer patients were not getting the right support because of a lack of good care there would, quite rightly, be an outcry.

“It’s time we took a whole person approach that gives physical and mental health equal consideration. 

“I’m pleased that FPH and the RCPsych are working together to promote understanding of the importance of taking this equal approach. FPH’s new online resource Better Mental Health for All provides advice and information for public health professionals about mental health and wellbeing, including its links with physical health.

“Public health professionals are in the business of building healthy and resilient communities. To do this, we need to give equal weight to physical and mental health. In doing so, we also make it easier to improve mental wellbeing, which protects against physical illness, social inequalities and unhealthy lifestyles.”

Professor Sue Bailey, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Almost one in four (23%) of British adults are experiencing a diagnosable mental health problem at any given time, making mental health problems the largest source of disability in the United Kingdom. However, only 11.1% of the NHS budget – £11.9 billion – was spent on NHS services to treat mental health problems during 2010/11.

“Achieving parity of esteem between mental and physical health is everybody’s business and responsibility. That’s why I’m delighted to be working with FPH and standing up for mental health today (10 October), on World Mental Health Day.

“After publishing our Parity of Esteem report in March 2013, the RCPsych is continuing to make the case for a reasonable rebalancing of resources, so that people get the care they need irrespective of whether they have a physical or mental health problem. We will be drafting and proposing new smoking-related Quality and Outcomes Framework for GP surgeries, updating our medical education material on smoking, and are working with the NHS Confederation to achieve smoke-free wards.

“Better education of healthcare professionals is key. That is why RCPsych is also strengthening its membership examination, the MRCPsych, to reaffirm the importance of preventing, identifying, assessing and managing physical illness.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England’s Director of Health and Wellbeing, said: “Having good mental health and a positive sense of wellbeing is hugely important to all of us.  It is central to living a healthy and longer life. 

“I welcome FPH’s work in prioritising mental wellbeing and in producing this new resource.  Public Health England has also made wellbeing and mental health a top priority and I look forward to continuing to work with FPH and other partners to provide good information, evidence, support and resources to improve the mental health and wellbeing of people living in England."

Written: 10/10/2013 , last modified: 24/12/2013