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Mental health must be made a 'priority'

More needs to be done to keep people with mental illness in work, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has said. 

In the latest annual mental health report, Professor Dame Sally Davies has called on the National Institute of Care and Health Excellence (NICE) to look into whether it would be cost effective to have "fast-track" treatments for people who may fall out of work due to mental illness. 

The number of working days lost to stress, depression and anxiety has increased by 24% since 2009, official figures show. 

Professor Davies has called for integrated psychiatry services to be piloted in primary care, as well as improving primary care staff education in psychiatry. 

She says this could prevent underlying issues escalating and developing into enduring mental illness. 

The report also found that 75% of people with diagnosable mental illness are not currently being treated. 

And the CMO has called for a greater focus on mental health care for children and young people. Half of all adult mental illness starts before the age of 15 and 75% by 18. 

The report states that early treatment for young people could prevent later life problems such as substance misuse, crime, unemployment and antisocial behaviour. 

The CMO said: "Anyone with mental illness deserves good quality support at the right time. One of the stark issues highlighted in this report is that 60-70% of people with common mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety are in work, so it is crucial that we take action to help those people stay in employment to benefit their own health as well as the economy. 

"My report has also shown that investment in support for children and young people can help to prevent a multitude of problems in later life." 

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said that the treatment gap for people with mental health problems can "no longer be ignored". 

He said: "Nursing staff, who deal with the consequences of the treatment gap every day, will be pleased to know that such a consensus exists about the need for parity of esteem when it comes to mental health.

"Dame Sally has set out the important facts and the right approach for improving the mental and physical health of the nation. A concerted effort to invest in mental health services, to integrate care and to improve public understanding is now vitally needed and history will judge us if we fail to take the opportunity.”