A King's Fund report into the cost of meeting the mental health needs of the nation has revealed that mental illness in England cost £50bn in 2007.
Almost half, £22.5bn, represents money spent on direct NHS and social care services to support people with mental disorders. More than half, £26.1bn, represents the estimated cost to the economy of earnings lost because of the thousands of people unable to work due to their mental illness.
The report, Paying the Price, suggests that significant investment in evidence-based services could help thousands back to productive work.
Although it finds that the prevalence of most mental disorders, including schizophrenia, is likely to remain stable over the next 20 years, it predicts a huge increase in dementia - up by almost two-thirds due to an aging population.
As a result of this, and above inflation rises in healthcare costs, the bill for mental health services is expected to grow from £22.5bn to £47bn.
However, there are potential savings. The report suggests that there are ways to reduce the number of expensive hospital inpatient days for patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, to improve early detection and treatment of dementia and to increase the proportion of people with depression and anxiety disorders who are well enough to work.
Professor Martin Knapp, coauthor of the report said: "With a third of adults with depression and a half with anxiety disorders not in touch with services there is significant potential to treat more people with those illnesses and make savings because of the boost to the workforce.
"The government, the NHS, social services and employers need to extend efforts to help people with mental health needs who are of working age but not in employment to get back to work."
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"Provided that these people do not force people with a mental health problem into impossible situations – very difficult because this illness can have times when the illness is coped with but can change within a matter of hours. Most employers are not equipped to be able to deal with this and I am sure that they do not want to. Unless people have had experience in dealing with a person with a mental illness it is very difficult for them to be able to know what is best for them – the carers should be involved in all steps along the way. We need to make these people feel valued and not useless blots on society" – Stephanie Pidgen, Grimsby