5) Social Care -Mental Health & Wellbeing

Mental health & Wellbeing

How common are mental health problems?

1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. The overall number of people with mental health problems has not changed significantly in recent years, but worries about things like money, jobs and benefits can make it harder for people to cope.

Different types of mental health problem

There are a number of different types of mental health problem, and they each have a different impact on the individuals who experience them. Knowing about different mental health problems helps you design services that are responsive to these needs. Below is not an exhaustive list of mental health problems as each has different symptoms and treatments.

Anxiety disorders happen when someone has feelings of anxiety that are very strong or last for a long time.

Bipolar disorder is characterised by the experience of swings between low mood and high, manic mood, usually with more normal phases in between.

Depression is characterised by the persistence of feelings of sadness or misery.   

Eating disorders can occur when someone has a relationship with food that they find difficult.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder where unwanted thoughts, urges and repetitive activities become an obstacle to living life as someone wants to. 
Personality disorders Someone might have a personality disorder if their personality traits cause regular, long-term problems in the way they cope with life.

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that occurs when the parts of the brain that are responsible for emotion and sensation stop working properly.  

It’s quite likely that one day you or someone you know or family members will experience a mental health problem. Yet mental illness is still surrounded by prejudice, ignorance and fear. Every seven years a survey is done in England to measure the number of people who have different types of mental health problem each year [1]. It was last published in 2009 and reported these figures:

Depression 2.6 in 100 people
Anxiety 4.7 in 100 people
Mixed anxiety and depression 9.7 in 100 people
Phobias 2.6 in 100 people
OCD 1.3 in 100 people
Panic disorder 1.2 in 100 people
Post traumatic stress disorder 3.0 in 100 people
Eating disorders 1.6 in 100 people

Some problems are asked about over a person’s lifetime, rather than each year:

Suicidal thoughts 17 in 100 people

Self-harm 3 in 100 people

Estimates for bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and personality disorders are also usually described over a person’s lifetime, rather than each year. Estimates for the number of people with these diagnoses do vary quite a lot but the most commonly reported figures are:

Personality disorders [2] 3 to 5 people in every 100

Bipolar disorder [3] 1 to 3 people in every 100

Schizophrenia [3] 1 to 3 people in every 100

Note- all of these surveys report figures for people living at home, so places like hospital and prison are not included.

What effect does stigma have?

Stigma isolates people. People often find it hard to tell others about a mental health problem they have, because they fear a negative reaction. And when they do speak up, the overwhelming majority say they are misunderstood by family members, shunned and ignored by friends, work colleagues etc. Stigma excludes people from day-to-day activities. Everyday activities like going shopping, going to the pub, going on holiday or joining a club are far harder for people with mental health problems. What’s more, about a quarter of people with a mental illness have been refused by insurance or finance companies, making it hard to travel, own property or run a business. Stigma stops people getting and keeping jobs. People with mental health problems have the highest ‘want to work’ rate of any disability group – but have the lowest in-work rate. One third report having been dismissed or forced to resign from their job and 70% have been put off applying for jobs. Stigma prevents people seeking help. When people first experience a mental health problem they tend not to seek help early and tend to come into contact with mental health services only when a crisis has developed. Stigma has a negative impact on physical health. We know that people with mental health problems tend to have poorer than average physical health and their physical health problems are often misdiagnosed. As a result, people with the most severe mental health problems die on average ten years younger.

How widespread is stigma?

Despite attitudes about sexuality, ethnicity and other similar issues improving, and despite some improvements since the launch of Time to Change, discrimination against people with mental health problems is still widespread. The Stigma Shout survey that we carried out at the beginning of Time to Change showed that almost nine out of ten people with mental health problems (87%) reported the negative impact of stigma and discrimination on their lives. The research also showed that the way family, friends, neighbours and colleagues behave can have a big impact on the lives of people with mental health problems.

Key facts and trends

The Mental Health Network has produced a short factsheet summarising key facts and trends related to mental health problems (January 2014). It brings together data from major national surveys and reports covering:

  • Key trends in morbidity and behaviour
  • Wider societal changes and challenges
  • NHS budget and spending projections
  • Service activity
  • Quality, safety and user experience

View Key facts and trends in mental health

Mental health myths and facts

  • Myth: Mental health problems are very rare.
  • Fact: 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year.
  • Myth: People with mental illness aren’t able to work.
  • Fact: We probably all work with someone experiencing a mental health problem.
  • Myth: Young people just go through ups and downs as part of puberty, it’s nothing.
  • Fact: 1 in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem.
  • Myth: People with mental health illnesses are usually violent and unpredictable.
  • Fact: People with a mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violence.
  • Myth: People with mental health problems don’t experience discrimination
  • Fact: 9 out of 10 people with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination.

Statistics about violence and mental illness

  • The majority of violent crimes and homicides are committed by people who do not have mental health problems.
  • People with mental health problems are more dangerous to themselves than they are to others: 90 per cent of people who die through suicide in the UK are experiencing mental distress
  • In 2009, the total population in England and Wales aged 16 or over was just over 43 million. It is estimated that about one in six of the adult population will have a significant mental health problem at any one time, (more than 7 million people). Given this number and the 50–70 cases of homicide a year involving people known to have a mental health problem at the time of the murder, clearly the statistics data do not support the sensationalised media coverage about the danger that people with mental health problems present to the community.
  • Substance abuse appears to play a role: The prevalence of violence is higher among people who have symptoms of substance abuse (discharged psychiatric patients and non-patients).

Portrayals of mental health in TV dramas

Research was carried out around portrayals of mental health in television drama & soaps, this found:

  • over a 3 month period 74 programmes contained storylines on mental health issues of these there were 33 instances of violence to others and 53 examples of harm to self
  • almost half were sympathetic portrayals, but these often portrayed the characters as tragic victims
  • the most commonly referred to condition was depression, which was mentioned 19 times, breakdown was mentioned 8 times and bi-polar 7
  • 63% of references to mental health in TV soaps and drama were “pejorative, flippant or unsympathetic” terms included: “crackpot”, “a sad little psycho”, “basket case” , “where did you get her from?”, “Care in the Community?” and “he was looney tunes”


[1] The Health & Social Care Information Centre, 2009, Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, Results of a household survey

[2] Coid J, Yang M, Tyrer P, Roberts A, Ullrich S., 2006, Prevalence and correlates of personality disorder in Great Britain. British Journal of Psychiatry, 188: 423-431

[3] Perala et al (2007) Lifetime prevalence of psychotic and bipolar I disorders in a general population Archives of general psychiatry, 64:19-28