Mental health 'costs UK £105bn pa'
The Government must go further in prioritising mental health services and addressing under-provision in the sector, Liberal Democrats have agreed.
Delegates at the party's autumn conference in Brighton backed a motion calling on the coalition to ensure mental health policies were being implemented on the ground.
Norman Lamb, newly appointed Minister for Care Services, spoke of the "vast" cost to society and the economy of mental illness, saying the issue was "ignored too often" by the political classes.
The Lib Dem MP for North Norfolk said: "In a way we are debating an extraordinary contradiction, because on the one hand every family in this country is touched by mental health issues. Amongst the under-65s, as the motion says, just about half of all ill health is mental illness. That's an extraordinary statistic.
"The cost to society and to the economy of mental illness is vast. Health inequalities is a scar on our society and yet ... it has always up until now been the poor relation and that has to change."
Referring to the stigma of mental health, he added: "It is simply not talked about, people still feel ashamed about mental illness, it's ignored too often by the media and by the political classes."
Delegate Sarah Yong said that on average one in four would experience mental illness at some stage in their lives, while it was found to be most common in the poorest 20% of the population.
She said: "Costing over £105 billion a year, mental illness represents a huge burden. The impact isn't confined just to the NHS, it affects worklessness, homelessness, leads to substance misuse and crime."
She added: "This Government has started to give mental health the status it deserves because Liberal Democrats are in Government, but we must go further. We need to ensure that mental health policies are being implemented on the ground and that local commissioners are spending the money they are given on mental health services."
The agreed motion, entitled Addressing Under-Provision in Mental Health, also included an amendment noting the high prevalence of mental health-related problems affecting those from deprived backgrounds. It also urged a new strategy to tackle the ways in which people from certain black and minority ethnic communities come into contact with mental health provision to reduce racial inequalities and improve services.