Page last updated at 06:39 GMT, Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Report claims mental health problems cost Wales 7.2bn


Colette Dawkin believes employers need to offer better support to people with mental health problems

Mental health problems are costing Wales £7.2bn a year, a report claims.

Promoting better mental health would save money and boost life expectancy by seven-and-a-half years, said the All Wales Mental Health Promotion Network.

It estimates costs at over £1bn for the Welsh NHS, over £2.5bn in lost economic activity and nearly £3.5bn in the loss of quality of life for sufferers.

Last month the Welsh assembly was given powers to improve the assessment and treatment of mental health disorders.

The assembly government describes the All Wales Mental Health Promotion Network as one of its flagship initiatives to help improve the mental health of the population.

The network's report calls for more money to be spent on preventing problems early, with intervention at childhood, parenting programmes and support for people with mental health problems to stay in work.

I think if I'd worked for a different company and had a lot of support... it might have been a different story altogether
Colette Dawkin

One person who believes earlier intervention would have helped her is Colette Dawkin, from Port Talbot, a volunteer with the mental health charity Hafal.

She was told she had post natal depression after giving birth at 18 but it was not until she was 30 that she was diagnosed with manic depression. By then, an employer had asked her to leave.

She said: "My psychiatrist always stopped me from working. Consequently, whenever I became well and motivated myself to pick up my career again, he always stopped me at the medical stage from getting jobs, and I haven't worked since 1986.

"I think if I'd worked for a different company and had a lot of support, not just going off on the sick and coming back to all the problems again, it might have been a different story altogether."

Professor Sir Mansel Aylward, chair of the All Wales Mental Health Promotion Network, said: "Mental illness is widespread. Its consequences are multi-dimensional so the potential benefits of prevention are extremely high.

"Mental health promotion interventions can raise self-esteem and strengthen people's life and coping skills as well as their emotional resistance.

"The report illustrates just how much mental health problems cost the Welsh economy both in terms of treatment and loss of earnings.

"Although there may be many gaps in the data, the economic benefits of improving mental health may be extensive."

New powers

In February, the first Legislative Competence Order (LCO) by a backbench assembly member saw more powers drawn from Westminster on mental health issues.

Conservative AM Jonathan Morgan said there had been all-party agreement, both at Westminster and Cardiff Bay, for the new powers.

This week, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board put plans for a new mental hospital in Cardiff on hold.

It said it was re-evaluating the original plans for an 87-bed replacement for Whitchurch Hospital, a huge former asylum in the north of the city.

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