How common are severe problems?

Severe mental illness is often used to describe psychosis and bipolar disorder however other conditions can also present severe problems:

  • About one in 200 people have psychosis or bipolar disorder1 – some need high levels of support and skilled interventions but many with the right support, will be recovering and managing their lives well
  • Depression or anxiety disorders (including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder & Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) can also be very distressing and debilitating as can eating disorders and severe emotional difficulties (alternatively described as ‘emotionally unstable’ (International Classification of Disorders, 10th Revision) or ‘borderline’ (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual, IVth Edition) personality disorder) occurring in about 1 in 1001.
  • Many have a number of different conditions at the same time (comorbidities): physical illness, substance misuse2 3, psychoses and emotional difficulties.
  • Approximately half of those with lifetime mental health problems first experience symptoms by the age of 144: three-quarters by their mid-20s so these can last a lifetime5.
  • Estimated unemployment rates amongst individuals with severe mental illness are up to 95%6.
  • Stigma and discrimination is widespread 7e.g. in employment. This can be particularly pronounced in ethnic minority communities – where prevalence is often higher – in combination with distrust of mental health services; help may not be sought in a timely way8.
  • Nearly half (24,429) of all clients with disabilities accessing Supporting People housing-related support in 2008/09 had a mental health disability. Of these 50% were subject to the Care Programme Approach (CPA) 7. People with mental health conditions are more likely to live in rented accommodation than to be owner occupiers.
  • People with mental health conditions are twice as likely as those without mental health conditions to be unhappy with their housing and four times as likely to say that it makes their health worse. Mental ill health is frequently cited as a reason for tenancy breakdown.
  • Housing problems are frequently cited as a reason for a person being admitted or re-admitted to inpatient care: finding appropriate accommodation is a major reason for delays in discharge9.
  • People with severe problems die on average 20 years earlier than the general population (see detail in Case for Change – Physical Health Care)10.
  • Effects of mental health issues on parenting of children are highly significant: interventions may be effective though limited evidence exists11– care needs to be ‘vertically integrated’ (working with parents and children individually and collectively).