Health inequality can't be allowed to go on

Published on Wednesday, 14 November 2012 16:48
Written by Vicki Mitchem

Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive at the Mental Health Foundation responds to the Schizophrenia Commission's report "The abandoned illness" suggesting that the outcomes experienced by people with schizophrenia and psychosis are still much worse than they should be.

"We have known for some time that people with severe mental health problems are dying 15-20 years earlier than other citizens. This appalling health inequality simply can't be allowed to continue.

GPs and other health professionals must do more to offer routine health assessments to people with severe mental health problems and address identified needs. Some people with severe mental health problems experience a chaotic lifestyle, self-neglect, poor diet and high levels of smoking, all of which significantly increase risk of physical health problems, including cardiovascular disease. However, this level of mortality cannot be simply attributed to lifestyle – this could be seen as victim blaming. Social inequality clearly plays a major role.

It is shocking that only 1 in 10 people with severe mental illness get access to effective psychological therapy despite it being recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). We have supported the Government's expansion of talking therapies across England. But we know that, despite improvements, implementation is patchy and in particular people with severe mental health problems are not getting the access they need, yet surely they should be a top priority.

The Commission's report points out that about 45% of people who receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia recover after one or more episodes. Rates of recovery will only improve when we refocus resources onto the early stages of illness, give people hope, and help them to self-manage their condition better, instead of spending all of our resources downstream. "

Source: ©MHF

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