A report published by the All Wales Mental Health Promotion Network has stated that greater investment in mental health promotion will bring considerable economic advantages to Wales.
The report, “Promoting Mental Health and Preventing Mental Illness: the economic case for investment in Wales”, estimates that the overall cost of mental health problems in Wales – including the cost of health and social services, output losses in the Welsh economy and ‘human costs’ – was £7.2 billion in 2007/08.
To reduce this cost the study recommends early intervention, support for lifelong learning, promoting healthy lifestyles and improving working lives.
Commenting on the report Bill Walden-Jones, Chief Executive of the Welsh mental health charity Hafal, said: “Our Members – people with serious mental illness and their families – are well aware of both the human and economic cost of mental health problems and the report contains several commonsense suggestions for promoting mental wellbeing in such areas as employment and education. However, as a priority we need to put right mainstream mental health services.”
To illustrate his point Mr Walden-Jones referred to the The National Assembly for Wales’ Health, Wellbeing and Local Government Committee Inquiry into Community Mental Health Services (September 2009) which identified serious shortcomings in community services. He said: “The report found that ‘there is some way to go before services achieve acceptable standards in all parts of Wales’. It also stated that ‘notwithstanding widespread support for its aims and principles, the Mental Health National Service Framework has not been properly implemented and its achievements have been limited.’
Mr Walden-Jones added: “While we support the promotion of mental wellbeing it should be acknowledged that there is no evidence that serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia can be prevented by addressing general social problems in society. For people with serious mental illnesses the best outcomes are achieved by providing timely treatment and a comprehensive care plan covering all areas of life.
“Budgets for employment and education should bear the cost of promoting mental wellbeing in these respective areas. However, if there is new funding available for mental health purposes then the priority must be to improve services for the most vulnerable people in our society – those who experience serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. We need a reality check on this: promoting mental wellbeing should not divert attention from the key priorities in current mental health services.”
The All Wales Mental Health Promotion Network report was published shortly after the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board announced that plans to replace one of Wales’ oldest mental hospitals, Whitchurch Hospital, with a new £80 million development have been abandoned.
Commenting on this announcement Mr Walden-Jones said: “Our Members are very concerned that the plans to replace Whitchurch hospital, part of a 10-year-old strategy, have been abandoned. The NHS should have got the plans right from the start; it is unacceptable that the whole process should have to start again. Not surprisingly, many patients and their families in Cardiff believe that funding is in fact at the root of this delay.
“Unfortunately for our Members this means that for the foreseeable future people with a serious mental illness in Wales’ capital city will be attending an outdated hospital built over a century ago. Whitchurch Hospital was founded in 1904 and is one of only a few century-old mental hospitals still in use today. It simply does not provide the therapeutic environment that is so important for recovery from serious mental illness: on the contrary the hospital is a shabby and depressing reminder of how far we have to go before Wales can say it has a mental health service fit for the 21st century.
“Our Members are now calling on Cardiff and Vale University Health Board to consult urgently with patients and patient organisations so that we can have our say on future plans for the services we use.”
To read “Promoting Mental Health and Preventing Mental Illness: the economic case for investment in Wales” go to: www.publicmentalhealth.org