A letter to the current and future Prime Minister,
There has been significant attention this month on the current cost of living crisis and the likelihood of a recession, which could last for years. But so far, there has been no recognition of the risk this poses to the nation’s mental health.
We are already beginning to see the impact. In July alone Samaritans received 12,000 emotional support contacts mentioning finance or unemployment concerns and Mind’s Infoline has seen a 30% rise compared to last year in calls related to finances. YoungMinds also tracks young people’s experiences of mental health and, for the first time, ‘worries about money’ was found to be the top concern and negative influence on their mental health.
We know from previous experience that a squeeze on living standards, unmanageable debt and economic recessions cause a rise in mental health problems, demand for services and, sadly, are connected to a rise in suicides. We have the opportunity to learn from the past and address how to support people’s wellbeing to avoid repeating history.
The nation’s mental health services were already stretched, and the pandemic has pushed them to breaking point. With over 1.5 million people currently on a waiting list, the cost of living crisis could put our entire mental health system on the brink of collapse, leaving people that are already struggling without the support they need.
Interventions must be put in place now, both for the immediate and the long-term future. Recommitting to implementing a cross-Government mental health plan and national suicide prevention strategy that demonstrates how to tackle inequalities and support marginalised communities will show us how seriously Government is taking this. Adequately supporting those on the lowest incomes, who are most at risk of experiencing mental health problems and are at higher suicide risk, is imperative right now.
This is a societal issue which will only be addressed if the Government, private and voluntary sectors work closely together. The voluntary sector is ready to respond but we cannot do it alone. We need the Government to stop being silent and show us clear and decisive leadership on this emerging national emergency that affects us all.
Julie Bentley, CEO, Samaritans
Paul Farmer, CEO, Mind
Emma Thomas, CEO, YoungMinds
Sarah Hughes, CEO, Centre for Mental Health
Poppy Jaman, CEO, City Mental Health Alliance
Mark Rowland, CEO, Mental Health Foundation
Michael Samuel, Chair, Anna Freud Centre
Dr Adrian James, President, Royal College of Psychiatrists
Kathy Roberts, CEO, Association of Mental Health Providers
Mark Winstanley, CEO, Rethink Mental Illness
Rosie Tressler, CEO, Student Minds
Simon Blake, CEO, Mental Health First Aid England
Dr Jacqui Dyer MBE, Director, Black Thrive Global
Akiko Hart, CEO, NSUN (National Survivor User Network)
Paula Ojok, CEO, Helplines Partnership
Victoria Hornby, CEO, Mental Health Innovations
The NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network