1 Public health
Mental health problems place a considerable burden on public health, the economy, and individual and social relationships (NICE, 2007). According to Mind (2005) the cost of mental health problems in England alone is more than £77 billion a year. The cost of private and NHS care is estimated to be over £12 billion, while a further £23 billion is lost as many people diagnosed with a mental health problem cannot work. Reduced quality of life and loss of life may account for £41 billion every year. In this section you will examine public health from a mental health perspective, beginning with an exploration of the relationship between public health and mental health.
Activity 1 Public health
In the response area below, make a list of mental health conditions that are concerns of public health.
Mental health has a huge impact on public health. Anxiety, depression and, of course, severe mental health problems such as schizophrenia affect not only the individuals concerned but also their carers, families and friends. Worries about self-harm and suicide, for example, affect the social functioning of everyone involved. Quality of life is inextricably related to psychological wellbeing.
In addition, there is evidence that many people with mental health problems have worse physical health than others. According to research by Soundy et al. (2007), individuals with schizophrenia die younger, much of the increased mortality being caused by obesity-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. The side effects of medication or lifestyle factors such as diet are implicated.
There are some particularly vulnerable groups: for example, abused people, people who misuse drugs and alcohol, prisoners, homeless people, refugees, and people with disabilities. Public health encompasses all of these groups who may have problems with their mental health, from children and young people, through people of working age and elderly people, to those with a dual diagnosis involving illicit drugs and alcohol misuse.
The effects of mental health on public health are pervasive. Public health is set within the home, the workplace, primary care and hospital-based services.