Prozac (cropped)
A blister-pack of Prozac.Acdx

Public spending on mental healthcare is too low, with UK authorities spending less than 2% of their public health budget on the issue, according to a leading charity.

Mental health charity Mind says that just 1.36% of the public health budget is spent on helping those who suffer from mental illnesses.

The report says that mental health problems cost the UK an estimated £100bn (€126.8bn, $161.1bn) per year through lost working days, lost tax, cost of treatment and benefits, but less than £40m is spent on trying to prevent it.

Yet authorities are spending £76m on increasing physical activity, £108m on anti-obesity programmes, £160m on helping people give up smoking, and £671m on sexual health.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: "Just like physical health, we all have mental health. Mind's findings show, however, that while local authorities are happy to spend on preventing physical health problems, their equivalent spending on mental health is unacceptably low.

"We need to invest in everyone's mental health, particularly for people who are more likely to become unwell such as younger people, pregnant women, people who are isolated, or those living with a long-term physical health problem.

"With demand for mental health services increasing, antidepressants on the up and more people accessing talking therapies, we are beginning to see the scale of the unmet need for mental health services in England. As a society, we must start looking at what we can do to help prevent people from developing mental health problems in the first place."

Mind is demanding that the government uses the budget more efficiently and introduces a strategy to combat and prevent mental health issues.

However, councillor Izzi Seccombe of the Local Government Association told the BBC that a lot is already being done.

"While we welcome a discussion about public mental health, we think the focus of this report is too narrow," she said.

"There are many things that councils do that impact positively on mental health but might not come with a mental health 'badge'.

"We would support the development of a national strategy that gives greater attention and focus to promoting mental health but would caution against any approach which dictates to local authorities and public health teams how to use their health promotion budgets."