Problems relating to mental health issues are costing the Scottish economy around £8.8bn a year over issues including lost productivity of sufferers and costs incurred by unpaid informal carers, a new report has found.
Researchers say that cost is likely to be an underestimate once the increased burden on the criminal justice and housing system, and those associated with addiction, are factored in.
The Government is now being urged to increase spending on measured aimed at preventing the problems develop.
The report was commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation and the charity’s director says the issue is worsening following the pandemic.
Lee Knifton said it is “time to increase investment in population-level prevention of mental health problems.
“We can’t only treat our way out of the mental health crisis, which is worsening due to the pandemic, and we cannot afford the spiralling costs to both people’s wellbeing and our economy.
“We urge the Scottish Government to pay attention to what the evidence is telling us and commit to prioritising prevention in mental health.
“A prevention-first approach will not only help break down the barriers to good mental health but empower people to thrive at every stage of their lives and boost our economy in the long run.”
The report, published on Thursday, makes the case for a prevention-based approach which would both improve mental wellbeing while reducing the economic cost of poor mental health.
The charity, which worked on the report with the London School of Economics with support from the University of Strathclyde, said to put the economic cost of mental ill health into context, the entire budget for the NHS in Scotland in 2020/21 was £15.3bn.
Across the UK, the economic hit is at least £117.9bn – around 5% of GDP – and there were 10.3m recorded cases of mental ill health over a one-year period.
Lead author of the report David McDaid, associate professional research fellow in health policy and health economics at the London School of Economics, said their calculation of the economic impact is a “conservative estimate”.
He added: “What is clear is that there is a sound economic case for investing in effective preventive measures, particularly at a time when population mental health may be especially vulnerable because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This requires further sustained and co-ordinated actions not only within the health and social care sector, but across the whole of Government.”
Commenting on the results Scottish Conservative Shadow Minister for Mental Health Craig Hoy MSP, said: “These figures are stark and prove that Scotland was in the midst of a mental health crisis even before Covid. The pandemic has only exacerbated these issues.
“We have heard a lot of warm words from SNP Ministers on mental health but have not seen the resources targeted towards organisations who can help those most in need.
“Ministers must use the alarming findings of this report to guarantee mental health will be given the same importance as physical health. The SNP’s continued failure to tackle mental health issues will have wide-ranging and deeply damaging consequences for Scotland’s economy and society.”
Kevin Stewart, the mental wellbeing minister in Holyrood, said “prevention and early intervention are key priorities we are taking forward in our approach to mental health and wellbeing”, and the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan underpins the effort.
He added: “We are already taking forward a range of key actions focused on prevention and early intervention which includes developing a new wellbeing website to support the mental health of Scotland’s people, an online platform for employers to support the promotion of mentally healthy workplaces, and support for grassroots community groups through the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund to deliver activities and programmes for adults facing social isolation, loneliness and mental health inequalities.
“In addition to the initial £15m for this fund, a further £6m was announced last week to meet the demand for local mental health and wellbeing projects.
“This reflects the importance that the Scottish Government places on promoting good mental health and early intervention for those in distress, ensuring that individuals can access a range of different types of support to match their needs.”