The UK Gov response
Mental health and wellbeing plan: discussion paper
Updated 25 April 2022
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Across the country, we’re talking more about our mental health and wellbeing than ever before. Thanks to the trailblazing courage of campaigners in the public eye, and thousands of quiet conversations in homes, schools and workplaces, more and more people now feel comfortable being open about their mental health.
I believe that now is the right time to think about bold, long-term action to build the mentally healthy society that we want to see in 10 years’ time. That is why I want your help to develop a new long-term mental health plan to transform the way that individuals, families, communities, the public, the private and voluntary and community sectors, and local and national government support the mental health of the nation. Given that mental ill-health is the second most common cause of years lived with disability in England, a new plan for mental health will contribute to delivering the government’s levelling up mission to increase healthy life expectancy by 5 years by 2035, and narrow the gap in healthy life expectancy between local areas where it is highest and lowest by 2030.
I recognise that preventing suicides requires specific attention and focused action, nationally and locally. I am therefore planning to develop a separate suicide prevention plan that will refresh our strategy from 2012 and complement an ambitious mental health plan.
We want to build a strong foundation for robust new plans for wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention, based on the latest evidence and the perspectives of people with lived experience of mental health conditions and suicidality. Therefore, I, along with my colleagues across government, want to start a national conversation about the questions that we have set out in this discussion document.
These questions have been developed in partnership with stakeholders and people with lived experience of mental health conditions. We want to build consensus on the priority actions we need to collectively take to reduce the number of people who go on to develop mental health conditions, especially for our children and young people and for communities at greatest risk. We want to develop plans to make sure that people at risk of developing a mental health condition or taking their life receive help at an earlier stage, and that people who are unwell are treated with compassion and get the support they need from the NHS, social care, and beyond. We also want your advice on how to fully harness the potential of technology and data to support better mental health, and how to incentivise the private sector to play its part. We want to hear about the best, innovative practice that is transforming lives and tackling disparities across the country, and how to make this the norm everywhere.
Approximately 1 in 6 people aged 16 and over in England were identified as having a common mental health condition in 2014, according to survey data.
In 2020 to 2021, there were around half a million people with more severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. We have seen worrying trends for children and young people, with rates of probable mental health disorders in 6 to 16-year-olds rising from 11.6% in 2017 to 17.4% in 2021. More people than ever are receiving support for a mental health crisis and, tragically, the numbers of those ending their life through suicide have broadly increased over the past decade.] We know that two-thirds of people who end their life by suicide are not in contact with NHS mental health services.
For many of us, the experience of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic – and its wide-ranging impacts on individuals, families, society, and the economy – have brought these issues into sharper focus. Around 1 in 5 adults in Britain experienced some form of depression in the first 3 months of 2021, over double pre-pandemic figures.
Our questions for you
To help develop a comprehensive plan that will help set and achieve our vision for mental health in 2035. The Government are asking for answers to the following questions across 6 key areas. These are:
- How can we all promote positive mental wellbeing?
- How can we all prevent the onset of mental health conditions?
- How can we all intervene earlier when people need support with their mental health?
- How can we improve the quality and effectiveness of treatment for mental health?
- How can we all support people with mental health conditions to live well?
- How can we all improve support for people in crisis?
You can respond to any or all questions using the online survey by 11:45pm on 7 July 2022.
Early intervention can take many forms. The support that someone needs won’t always be ‘clinical’, and it’s important that we don’t over-medicalise people’s experience of distress. The ‘right’ support will depend on someone’s individual needs, how those needs affect them, the severity of their symptoms, their individual strengths, and their wider circumstances. Sometimes the most appropriate intervention will include providing support and information to important people in a person’s life, such as parents, unpaid carers, teachers, families or employers. In some cases, interventions to tackle the triggers of a person’s distress, or encouraging them to access activities which improve mood and wellbeing such as the arts, physical activity, or nature, may be most effective.
The Time to Change website offers lots of help and support including this….
1. Don’t wait to find the perfect moment
When we imagine conversations about mental health we might envisage something like a therapy session: two people alone in a quiet room, sitting face to face, giving one another their full attention. But in reality, when was the last time you and a mate found yourselves in this scenario? It’s important that conversations happen at times and in places that feel natural.
Sometimes it’s easier to talk about our feelings when we are doing something else. Driving in the car; jogging around the park; eating breakfast in the cafe. The more typical the setting, the less unusual and uncomfortable the conversation can feel. Having something else to do at the same time also means that the pressure is off to fill silences, maintain eye contact, and wrap things up in a particular way.
2. Ask twice
We know that people often say they’re fine when they’re not. So asking twice is an important way of starting conversations about mental health and letting people know that you really are interested. Sometimes we feel uncomfortable opening up if someone asks, “how are you?” because we think they’re just being polite. But if that person says, “no, really, is everything OK?” we know that they’re not just going through the motions. Even if someone doesn’t feel like talking at that moment, they know you’ll be there to listen when they’re ready.
3. Talk about yourself
If you want someone to open up to you it can help them feel safe and understood if you share your own feelings. You don’t have to disclose a mental health problem to them – you might not have any personal experience of one. It could be as simple as sharing that you get down sometimes or sharing something that you’ve been worrying about recently. This will make it clear that you’re happy to talk about feelings and that there won’t be any judgement.
4. Approach the elephant in the room
If you know that someone has experienced mental illness – maybe they took some time off work recently or spoke about it in the past – don’t be afraid to ask how they’re doing. There are respectful ways to do this and it might not be appropriate to bring up specific details, but asking, “how are things now?” or “are you back at work?” shows that person that they have nothing to feel awkward about.
If you think someone has been acting differently it’s OK to mention that too, if it is done in a kind way. “You’ve seemed a bit quiet recently, is everything alright? I’m here if you want to talk.” This shows that you care and opens the door for them to chat about things when they’re ready.
5. It doesn’t have to be face to face
Talking in person is great. It can help to see someone’s facial expressions, read their body language, and give them a hug if that feels right. But some people find it easier to talk about things via text or email, and that’s fine too. If your main form of communication is WhatsApp, check in with them on there. All the above tips still apply online. Social media is a brilliant way of keeping in touch with people, but just because we’ve liked a post or shared a funny video doesn’t mean we’ve really connected with that person.
The link to the consultation is here.
Please use it to help shape the UK response to this growing crisis