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Inequalities in wealth and power linked to poorer mental health

The Commission for Equality in Mental Health has released a report highlighting the link between mental health inequalities and wider injustices in society.

The independent Commission, supported by Centre for Mental Health, found that inequalities in wealth, power and voice are linked to poorer mental health.

While exclusion, discrimination, violence and insecurity all increase the risk of poor mental health and explain why some groups of people face markedly higher rates of mental ill health than others.

The brief was published as part of a two-year investigation into mental health inequalities and explores actions that can be taken, from communities and local services to national policies, to reduce mental health inequalities.

These include action to reduce income inequality, housing insecurity and poor working conditions as well as changes to education and the provision of early years support to families.

Chair of the Commission for Equality in Mental Health, Liz Sayce, said: ‘Anyone can have a mental health problem, and many of us will during our lives. But our risk of mental ill health is anything but equal.

‘Children from the lowest income families are four times as likely as the wealthiest to have poor mental health by the time they leave primary school. Disabled people and people with physical health problems have far higher rates of mental ill health, not least because they disproportionately experience poverty, isolation and disconnection from their communities.

‘The causes of mental health inequalities are complex. Women face higher risks of mental ill health for many reasons, including the far higher risk of experiencing abuse and violence at home. For LGBT+ communities, discrimination and bullying are major factors in the much higher rate of psychological distress.

‘And for Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in the UK, racism and oppression are at the heart of the high levels of distress that affect many.

‘For too long we have accepted that inequalities in mental health are inevitable. They are not. We can take action at every level, from local communities to national policies, to reduce mental health inequalities.

‘Our first briefing paper looks at what we can do to make a difference. Ideas shared with the Commission include action to reduce child poverty and homelessness, inclusive education as part of a ‘whole school approach’ to mental health, and the provision of early years interventions such as parenting programmes.

‘The Commission will produce two further briefing papers on access to mental health support and on outcomes. In our final report later this year we will make recommendations for how to build a system designed for equality.’

Responding to the report, cllr Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:

‘People’s mental health and wellbeing is affected by so much more than just the immediate health and care services available in their area.

‘As this report identifies, someone’s risk of mental ill health can be increased due to their personal circumstances or the environment they find themselves in.

‘Councils have a crucial role to play in issues affecting wider mental health, such as housing, skills, employment, transport and public spaces.

‘If you live in good quality accommodation with convenient access to work, have the right skills to progress in life while being able to use your local leisure centre or public park, your chances of living a healthy and fulfilling life are much improved.

‘We want to work with the new Government and the NHS to use councils’ unique position and expertise to support people via these essential public services, to improve the mental wellbeing of all of our communities.’

Photo Credit – Local Government Association

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