Improve service access and tackle causes of mental illness, says CSP

The Society wants to see better access to mental health services in poorer areas following the release of figures showing a strong correlation between mental illness and deprivation.

Analysis of the Indices of Deprivation 2004: Mental Health Indicator 1997-2002, obtained from the office of the deputy prime minister, shows deprived areas across England dominate a list of areas with the highest incidence of mental illness. Parts of Tyne and Wear, Greater Manchester, Chester, Norfolk, North Devon, Brighton and Hove, Dorset, Cumbria, Cleveland, Kent and Lancashire are high on the list. The study looked at four main indicators of mental illness and calculated which areas had higher or lower incidence than normal. The Society is now calling for the government to improve access to services in some of the most deprived areas, and also to address the underlying causes of mental health conditions. Physiotherapist Catherine Pope, sector manager in mental health services for older people in Nottingham, said the links between social deprivation and mental illness, and health inequalities generally, were proved. 'There definitely seems to be  a higher incidence of conditions like depression and sometimes schizophrenia in deprived areas. Whether that's because people tend to end up in those areas where they're more accepting of people who have problems or are unemployed, it's very difficult to say definitively what the causes and effects are.' Ms Pope said it appeared that social exclusion could lead to higher incidence of mental illness in some areas. She told Frontline she believes ensuring appropriate services are available should be a priority for the government. However, she said, there must also be more recognition of psychosocial factors, which might contribute to some conditions. 'There remains a stigma attached to mental illness and some sectors of the community find it difficult to understand. It's important there is wider access to better treatment that isn't just about drugs. There should also be better access to psychological services to address problems like stress,' Ms Pope said. 'These are things that physiotherapists can help with using treatments such as exercise and complementary therapies - including massage, acupuncture and various relaxation techniques.   Advice on smoking, alcohol consumption and diet can also help.'
Raylene Bateman

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