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Mental ill-health represents the largest single illness encumbrance within the UK, accounting for approximately 23% of the total illness burden (Palmer, 2013). It is estimated that approximately 450 million people worldwide experience mental ill health (WHO 2003).


One in four families worldwide is likely to have at least one member experiencing mental ill health or behavioural difficulties (WHO 2001). Good mental health is recognised as an integral part of a person’s wellbeing, embedded in all aspects of a whole life, their beliefs, faith, culture, environment, spirituality, work, housing, education, family and community respect (WHO, 2005).

  • Mixed anxiety and depression are the most common mental health disorders in the UK (Palmer 2013).
  • Women are more likely to seek help for mental health problem than men and about ten percent of children have a mental health problem at any one time (Mental Health Foundation 2016).
  • Suicides rates show that British men are three times more likely to die by suicide than British women and self-harm statistics for the UK show one of the highest rates in Europe (Office for National Statistics 2016).
  • Certain ethnic groups have been found to be over-represented in mental health services and more likely to be held under a section of the Mental Health Act (CQC report on Mental Health Act 2018).
  • Mental ill health is the largest single cause of disability yet only 11% of England’s annual secondary care health budget is spent on mental health services (Mental Health Foundation 2015).
  • According to the Department of Health’s Framework for Mental Health Research (2017:3), “mental health research has lagged behind many other areas in terms of priority, funding, and therefore discoveries. This means that improvements in prevention and care are progressing too slowly.”

It has been acknowledged for some time that poverty can be a trigger for poor mental health, and a report from the World Health Organisation (2009) highlight that mental health difficulties are most pronounced in countries such as Britain, which, although rich, have high levels of income and social inequality. Inequalities in health between ethnic groups in the United Kingdom have been extensively documented, with studies showing worse health among minority ethnic people compared with white population (Race Equality Foundation 2007).