97,000 suffer mental illness in Suffolk

THOUSANDS of people suffer from mental health issues in Suffolk but health chiefs say this could just be the tip of the iceberg.

Naomi Gornall

THOUSANDS of people suffer from mental health issues in Suffolk but health chiefs say this could just be the tip of the iceberg.

Latest figures from NHS Suffolk's Annual Public Health report revealed that mental ill health costs the county's economy an estimated �898 million every year as around 97,000 people suffer from conditions in Suffolk.

However Dr Peter Bradley, director of public health with the NHS Suffolk and Suffolk County Council, believes this figure could increase as there are still many people not receiving help and the effects of the recession on mental health is yet to become apparent.

Other facts to come out in the report include:

people who are unemployed are twice as likely to have depression

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one in ten of Suffolk's children has a common mental health problem

one in ten of Suffolk's mothers suffers from post-natal depression

more than 10,000 people in Suffolk have dementia

81,600 work days are lost annually because of mental health problems

Dr Bradley said: “The biggest thing is the danger that that figure [�898 million] will rise because of the impact of the recession. That is the thing that concerns me at the moment.

“We haven't got the figures of how the recession has affected Suffolk. All the research shows that it affects people's general health for up to 15 years after the period of unemployment stopped. We are trying to make sure people are aware of the issues and that they know there are services out there in the community that they can access. The more we can do for those in work and for those out of employment, the more we are able to reduce costs.

“There are almost certainly more people with mental health issues than we know about, for example we know a lot of people with mild dementia often do not tell anyone about their concerns.”

Dr Bradley admits that mental health is now firmly at the top of NHS Suffolk's agenda as the knowledge they have gained indicates how important mental health is to the physical wellbeing of the person.

He added: “Mental health problems can affect any of us at any point in our lives. And although mental health is generally better in Suffolk than the rest of the UK, one in six people in the county are suffering with a mental health problem at any one time. There is still a stigma attached to this - which is one of the key things we want to change.

“What we want this report to do is encourage discussion on how we can further develop these initiatives to ensure that everyone with a mental health problem is given the help and support that they need.”