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Fundamental Facts About Mental Health

This year’s Fundamental Facts follows the recent publication of the 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS). This highlights that, every week, one in six adults experiences symptoms of a common mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression, and one in five adults has considered taking their own life at some point. Nearly half of adults believe that, in their lifetime, they have had a diagnosable mental health problem, yet only a third have received a diagnosis. The APMS brings to the fore the widening gap between the mental health of young women and young men. Women between the ages of 16 and 24 are almost three times as likely (at 26%) to experience a common mental health problem as their male contemporaries (9%) and have higher rates of self-harm, bipolar disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. This is clearly an issue that needs a deeper look and a strategy for addressing the factors that are causing it.

Another group at particular risk includes people in mid-life, with a noticeable increase in the prevalence of common mental health problems for both men and women between the ages of 55 and 64.

There are some very worrying levels of poor mental health among people receiving Employment and Support Allowance. Two thirds report common mental health problems and the same percentage report suicidal thoughts, with 43.2% having made a suicide attempt and one third (33.5%) self-harming, indicating that this is a population in great need of targeted support.

Despite an increase in people accessing treatment, around a third of all people with a mental health problem have sought no professional help at all.

At the centre of the Mental Health Foundation’s research and programme work is the belief that many mental health problems are preventable. There is far more scope for interventions that reduce the incidence of people developing mental health problems and also support recovery. There are solutions that we know are not yet being commonly applied, as well as gaps in our knowledge that need to be filled. The Foundation sees its role as being to address both the knowledge gap and the implementation gap.

The demographic inequalities in the prevalence and risks associated with mental health problems are reflected in treatment. People who are white British, female or in mid-life are more likely to receive treatment, while people in black ethnic groups have particularly low treatment rates. People with low incomes are more likely to have requested but not received mental health treatment.

Too often, we approach mental health problems by considering what individuals, families and communities are lacking. It is far more productive to use approaches that build on the knowledge, skills and relationships within communities. We believe that the right information, cocreated and communicated through the right channels,
can engage people and motivate them to have greater understanding of mental health, to see how we can all take steps to reduce our risks of becoming ill, and to advocate service and policy change to support good mental health. We intend for Fundamental Facts to help us answer the question: What can we do, both individually and collectively, to improve mental health in our society?

Public information is at the heart of what we do. Our online A–Z at www.mentalhealth.org.uk is consulted by hundreds of thousands of people every year and Fundamental Facts is one of our most popular publications.

Fundamental Facts is a resource for everyone interested in good mental health and preventing mental health problems from developing. Please share it and help us to advocate a prevention revolution in thinking about mental health.