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Where you live plays a major role in your mental wellbeing | Torsten Bell


Mental health varies significantly across the country. Last year, estimated rates of mental disorder in children were as high as 20.5% in the West Midlands but just half that in London.

There are also big gaps in how many people access mental health support. A new US study dug into huge variation among older adults across states: people over 65 in Massachusetts were twice as likely as those in Nevada to use mental health services. The records of those moving between areas reveals that most (60%) of the gaps in mental health care use were related to places themselves.

That immediately makes you think about different levels of provision and quality, of the kind that encourages the setting of national standards; NHS England has just finished consulting on new promises, including that patients requiring urgent care are seen by mental health crisis teams within 24 hours.

But differences in healthcare provision explain only a fifth of the place-driven variation – local attitudes towards mental health also make a big difference. This matters: higher use of mental health care services is associated with a lower suicide rate. This side of the Atlantic,we have our own variation, seeing 13.3 suicides per 100,000 people in the north-east last year v 9.3 in the East Midlands. The lesson? We need to improve the UK’s woeful provision of mental health services and maintain progress on attitudes towards asking for help.

Torsten Bell is chief executive of the Resolution Foundation. Read more at resolutionfoundation.org

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