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How common are mental health problems?

The 2014 Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing in England found that 1 in 6 people aged 16+ had experienced symptoms of a common mental health problem, such as depression or anxiety, in the past week. Women were more likely than men to be experiencing common mental disorders. Prevalence has increased since 1993.

2% of survey respondents had ever experienced bipolar disorder. 0.7% had experienced psychotic disorder in the past year. 4.4% of respondents screened positive for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Just over 5% of survey respondents reported having had suicidal thoughts in the past year. 

2017 survey of children and young people’s mental health found that one in eight children aged 5 to 19 had at least one mental health problem.

Talking therapies for common mental health problems: IAPT

NHS England’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme (IAPT) aims to provide talking therapies for working age people experiencing common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. It aims to treat 75% of people within 6 weeks of referral, to ensure that half of those finishing treatment recover from their condition, and it aims to reach 15% of people with common mental disorders each year. People can be referred by their GP or they can self-refer.

IAPT referrals by age and gender tableIn 2018/19, 1.6 million people were referred to IAPT, 1.09 million entered treatment and 582,000 finished a course of treatment. 65% of those referred to IAPT were women. Click the thumbnail image on the left for more info.

Talking therapies are explained in this NHS Choices video.

IAPT waiting times between referral and second treatment in different parts of England

IAPT Waiting Times

89.4% of those finishing a course of treatment in 2018/19 waited less than 6 weeks for their first treatment. However, waiting times for first treatment varied substantially across England, from lows of 4 days in Basildon and Brentwood to highs of 61 days in Manchester. In most areas, patients waited longer between their first and second treatments than they waited for their first treatment. Waiting times for first and second treatment combined varied from 22 days in Wakefield to 162 days in Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale. Click the thumbnail map to the left for more.

IAPT Outcomes

Just over half of those finishing a course of IAPT treatment moved to recovery (i.e. they were no longer classed as having a clinical case of a mental health problem). In 2018/19, recovery rates varied from 66% in Stoke-on-Trent to 33% in Wirral. Two-thirds of people showed a reliable improvement in their condition after finishing a course of IAPT treatment. Improvement rates varied from 81% in South Kent Coast and East Staffordshire to 53% in Swindon. Click the thumbnail map to the left for more.Improvement after IAPT therapy, variation in different parts of England

 Recovery and improvement rates varied between social groups, with some minority groups less likely to see positive outcomes:

  • People living in more deprived areas were less likely to experience improvement or recovery after IAPT than those living in less deprived areas
  • People with disabilites were less likely to experience improvement or recovery than those without disabilities
  • People identifying as bisexual were less likely to experience improvement after IAPT than people identifying as straight
  • People identifying as Asian, Asian British, Black, or Black British were less likely to experience improvement and recovery after IAPT than those identifying as White


Secondary mental health services

Map - adults in contact with mental health services during 2018/19 in England by local authoritySeparate data is collected on people who are in contact with NHS mental health and learning disability services. Unlike IAPT, most of these services don’t have recorded waiting times.

It’s estimated that 2.73 million people were in contact with secondary mental health services or learning disability services at some point during 2018/19. These figures do not include people who are only in contact with IAPT services. This includes 2.09 million adults and 632,000 children.

Contact with and access to mental health services varies across the country. In Preston, 10.8% of the adult population were in contact with adult mental health services during 2018/19. In Mid Suffolk, the figure was 2.5%. Click the thumbnail map to the left for more information.

Mental health spending

NHS England’s Mental Health Dashboard provides a national and local overview of spending on mental health services.

The total spend on mental health, learning disabilities and dementia in 2017/18 was planned to be £13 billion – 2% higher than the previous year in real terms. 14% of funds allocated to local NHS CCGs are spent on mental health, learning disability and dementia services.

Commissioners are expected to attain the Mental Health Investment Standard, which means that the proportional increase on mental health spending each year should be larger than the proportional increase in overall spending by CCGs. NHS England reports 186 of 191 CCGs are due to meet this standard in 2019/20. However, data on local CCG mental health spending isn’t published. Instead, figures are available on a wider spending category that includes learning disability and dementia services. Learning disability and dementia spending isn’t counted in the mental health investment standard.

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