We respond to the Chief Medical Officer's report: public mental health.
We are delighted that the Chief Medical Officer chose mental health as the focus of such an important report, which affirms much of what organisations like Mind hear every day. It’s a wake-up call ahead of the election that mental health services must be a priority for all political parties. Whoever forms our next government will have a big job to do in making sure that mental health is treated with the same importance as physical health and that people with mental health problems get the support and treatment they deserve.
We particularly welcome the call to get help to people quickly and we support the Chief Medical Officer’s call for maximum waiting times for accessing treatment, as we have come to expect for physical health. However, while the Chief Medical Officer suggests looking into fast-tracking people with mental health problems who are in work for health services, we feel it is essential that everyone with a mental health problem gets timely access to the treatment they need, whether in or out of work.
This report rightly goes beyond the NHS to look at the part that all areas of society play in the mental health of the nation. Mental health is everyone’s business and local authorities, housing bodies, schools, employers and other agencies, services and organisations all have a key role to play in looking after the mental health of the nation. We also welcome the Chief Medical Officer’s call for continued funding of Time to Change, the anti-stigma campaign that Mind runs in partnership with Rethink Mental Illness.
Our own research into ‘ecotherapy’ initiatives such as gardening or outdoor exercise shows the impact that general wellbeing programmes can have but we agree that the evidence-base for wellbeing services isn’t as strong as it ought to be. This, for us, is another example of how far mental health lags behind physical health. We have come to understand a great deal over many years about preventing heart disease and stroke, with robust evidence that underpins a national public health programme. We need to see the same sort of investment for research into the impact of public mental health programmes.