Whether it is family or friends, neighbours or work colleagues, the chances are we all know someone who is affected by a mental health problem. According to Statistical body NHS Digital, around one sixth of the UK aged 16-64 is affected by a mental health problem.

Despite the expected announcement of planned improvements to care next week, the UK faces several significant challenges to tackle the issue of mental health.

1. Problems are on the increase

Data shows that since the early 1990s, there has been a substantial rise in the proportion of people with severe symptoms of common disorders. Evidence would suggest the rise has been particularly driven by an increase in women with illness.

The 21st century may also play a crucial role in the rise of mental health problems. Many people face issues such as household economic problems, the influence of social media and rising expectations of what life should be like.

2. Women are now more likely to be affected

Women are much more likely to have a common mental illness with one in five being affected as compared with one in eight males.

Young people are particularly susceptible. One theory for this is that the economic uncertainty of the past decade has particularly affected the young, making it harder to get on the career ladder.

Questions have also been raised by psychiatrists and mental health campaigners about whether social media increases peer-group pressure and online bullying.

3. Men are more likely to take their own lives

Mental health problems have been the cause of thousands of people to take their own lives.

In fact, there are about 6,000 suicides in the UK each year and it's the biggest killer of men up to the age of 49. Men account for three-quarters of the total figure.

However, since the 1980s the trend is down. There is large national variation, with England having the lowest suicide rate and Northern Ireland the highest. Scotland and Wales have similar rates and are in the middle.


4. Mental health problems tend to start early


Mental health problems are particularly common in the young for the UK. Most mental health problems develop in childhood or when a person is a young adult.

Three-quarters of mental health problems are only established by the age of 24, which is why there is such an emphasis at the moment on addressing childhood mental illness.

In 2015, the government promised funding for child and adolescent mental health services would increase.

5. Mental health services are the poor relation when it comes to funding

Analysis last year by the King's Fund health think tank found 40% of mental health trusts in England had seen their budgets cut in 2015-16.

While 23% of NHS activity is taken up by mental illness, mental health trusts have been receiving only about 11% of funding in recent years. Mental health remains the poor cousin compared to the spending on physical ailments.

6. Mental health prescriptions rise

Prescriptions are the most common form of treatment. The number of medicines dispensed for anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic attacks has more than doubled in the past 10 years.

Doctors are much more likely to keep people on drugs for longer with evidence suggesting it is a more effective way of treating patients.

But as common as antidepressants are, the fact remains the majority of people with mental illness report they are not getting help. Only one in three of those polled said they were receiving treatment, according to NHS Digital.

7. A long way from home

The pressure on the system also manifests itself in long journeys for treatment.

Last year a major report looked at the issue and pointed to thousands of people being sent more than 30 miles for services like acute care.

It was reported that far too many people in towns and cities, where services should be easier to access, are affected, and the situation was "unacceptable".

It can be massively disruptive for patients and their families. Yet an awful lot of sufferers of ill mental health travel a long, long way to get treatment.

According to the British Medical Association, things are getting worse not better. It reports that there has been a 40% rise in patients being sent out of area for treatment.

If you do think you are suffering from mental health issues, then do consult your doctor for help and advice. Alternatively, you can download Qure app to see a doctor at a time and location that suits you. Simply download the app here -> http://onelink.to/jtygac.


Charlie Harington