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• The fallout from the economic downturn could be a significant threat to mental health, according to a survey.
House repossession was rated as the event most likely to cause mental health problems, ahead of redundancy, or finding out about infertility.

Charity Rethink called for action to prevent a “mental health disaster”.

The survey was published as a UN report showed England spends more of its health budget on mental health care than any other European country.

Rethink’s director of public affairs Paul Corry said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a rise in the number of people going to their doctor because of mental health problems in the coming months.

“Even for people lucky enough to hang on to their home, the stress and worry of arrears building up can be enough to harm your mental health – this survey shows it worries millions of us.”

He said that people who already had mental health problems were likely to be treated less well by their lenders, and did not have a “safety net” to protect them.

He said: “There’s an urgent need to do something to prevent a mental health disaster.”

Another mental health charity agrees with that assessment – Mind, which is launching its own £16m initiative to link exercise to better mental health, and to reduce stigma, released its own report earlier this year warning about the dangers of debt.

High ranking

The survey of 2,000 people was released to mark World Mental Health day.

The World Health Organisation report contained a far cheerier message about the services in place to tackle the UK’s mental health problems.

It compared spending on mental health in European countries, and found England and Wales spent 13.8% of its health budget on mental health – the highest level in Europe.

Scotland spent 9.8%, according to the report, and in the UK as a whole, the numbers of psychiatrists per 100,000 people was found to be above the European average.

More detained

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said he was “delighted” by the report, citing a huge rise in investment as the reason for the UK’s present position, and said that the focus was now on community-based teams to treat patients.

“The pernicious concept of the asylum is over, but our commitment to improving services further is undiminished,” he said.

However, a report in this week British Medical Journal suggested that, over the past 10 years, the use of inpatient mental hospitals has increased, rather than lessened.

Dr Patrick Keown, a Newcastle-based psychiatrist, calculated that the number of patients “sectioned” under the Mental Health Act increased by a fifth between 1996 and 2006.

At the same time, the number of psychiatric beds in England fell.

A spokesman for the charity Sane said: “Improvements in community care are supposed to reduce the need for compulsory admission when someone reaches crisis point – yet precisely the opposite appears to have happened.

“We urgently need to find out why this is the case.”

Source: BBCNEWS

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