A new tool has been launched to help save long-term costs by helping public health bodies identify cost-effective health programmes.
Developed by Public Health England (PHE) and London School of Economics (LSE), the programmes the identifies are proven to reduce the incidence and risk of mental health problems at all stages of life, including children and young people, the working age population and older people.
READ MORE: Mental health patients rely on ambulances as primary care falters
Mental health problems represent the largest single cause of disability in the UK. The cost to the economy is estimated at £105 billion a year.
‘A lot of mental health illness can be prevented,’ said PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie. ‘This will not only improve the quality of life of the individual but also provide economic benefits by reducing the financial burden of mental ill health.
‘In order to provide a truly 21st-century response to this important public health issue we have to give equal attention to the prevention of mental ill health as well as treating it.’
READ MORE: Hunt reveals £1.3 billion boost for mental health services
Programmes focused on children include a whole school anti bullying programme saving society £1.58 for every £1 invested and a programme focused on social and emotional learning which saves £5.08 for every £1 invested.
Other programmes include wellbeing and stress prevention programmes for the workplace, collaborative care for physical health problems in mental health patients, and tackling loneliness in older people.
Alongside the tool, PHE has published several other evidence-based resources that will help local areas create effective public health systems that can prevent as well as treat mental ill health.
READ MORE: Arts could make 'powerful contribution' to NHS mental health savings
The tool and other resources are an ‘important turning point’ in moving towards a more prevention focussed approach, according to PHE – helping those who are experiencing challenges to their mental health and also helping to improve mental health within local communities.
In order to achieve this, PHE is calling for action not just from the health, social care and public health sectors but also the community and voluntary sectors to give more attention to the wider causes of mental health problems including health inequalities and wider social determinants.