Sick City: Mental health

7 October 2010

 Mental health. Wellcome Images
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Mental health. Wellcome Images

Tonight, Wellcome Collection presents Sick City, a balloon debate in which the audience decides public health priorities for London. Four speakers each propose a problem which they think demands our resources and attention. This week on the Wellcome Collection blog, we present a brief introduction to each speaker’s priority. Join the debate using the comments below, or come to the event to help make the decision.

Paul Farmer will put the case for mental health as London’s most urgent health challenge.

Quite simply, mental health is the greatest public health issue facing London, yet it is one of the most ignored.

The facts are clear:

  • One in four Londoners experience mental health problems;
  • The World Health Organisation identifies depression as a growing mental health issue, becoming the biggest issue by 2020;
  • 90% of people who have a mental health problem experience stigma and discrimination as a result;
  • The recession has had a major impact on our mental health, with a steep increase in the prescription of antidepressants.

We need to act on this quickly. It does not have to be like this.

What can we do:

  • Public education campaigns to tackle stigma and discrimination are already having an impact, but more needs to be done;
  • We can and should treat our mental health in the same way as we treat our physical health – with preventative approaches;
  • Timely access to effective services, such as talking treatments, provides effective help and further destigmatises mental issues.

Paul Farmer has been Chief Executive of Mind, the leading mental health charity working in England and Wales since May 2006. He was a co-author of Realising Ambitions, an independent review for the Department for Work and Pensions  (DWP). He is a member of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) Programme Board, Care Quality Commission (CQC) Mental Health Board and Chair of the Disability Charities Consortium. He is also a member of the Centre for Social Justice Mental Health Inquiry.Before becoming Chief Executive of Mind, Paul was Director of Public Affairs for Rethink and was Chair of the Mental Health Alliance from 2001-06.