Local authorities in England spend an average of 1% of their public health budget on mental health according to mental health charity Mind.
Data obtained by the charity under the Freedom of Information Act showed that some areas didn't plan to spend any money on preventing mental health problems this year.
Local authorities are required by the Department of Health to report on their public health spending against a set list of categories, including sexual health services, obesity and stop smoking services. Currently any spending on public mental health is reported under 'miscellaneous' with 14 other areas.
'Our research shows that current spend on public mental health initiatives is negligible. The fact that local authorities' public health teams are allowed to file mental health under 'miscellaneous' when reporting on it perhaps explains why. It sends a message that mental health is not seen as important and not a priority for investment,' said Paul Farmer, the chief executive of Mind.
Ian Hulatt, the professional lead for mental health at the Royal College of Nursing, calls the results 'worrying'. 'What is distinctive about mental health services is that they are quite interdependent on other means of delivering support such as recreation centres, drop in centres, social support schemes which are all delivered through the local authority. A joint strategic assessment is needed to look at communities and be creative about how to meet theire needs,' he added.
The lack of funding comes despite the fact that it is conservatively estimated that mental health problems cost health and social care services £21billion annually, with a further £30 billion lost in economic output. Mind argues that spending on promoting good mental health and preventing mental health problems developing is just as important as physical health.