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Unexpected mental health-related deaths rise by 50% in last 3 years

Thursday 9th February 2017
There has been a significant rise in the number of unexpected mental health-related deaths in the UK in recent years. Image: KatarzynaBialasiewicz via iStock
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The number of deaths among mental health patients rose by 50 per cent more than health authorities expected over the past three years, new figures show.

The BBC's Panorama programme submitted a Freedom of Information request to mental health trusts throughout the UK, with 33 out of 57 responding with statistics showing their proportion of unexpected deaths due to suicide, neglect or misadventure.

Overall, between 2012 and 2013, a total of 2,067 unexpected mental health-related deaths that the authorities did not anticipate were recorded by these trusts, with this figure rising significantly to 3,160 by the 2015-16 period.

The fact that so many deaths among individuals known to have mental health issues were not expected by trusts suggests that the care these patients are receiving is failing them somewhere along the line. As a result, new strategies to help mental health workers provide the best possible standard of support and care to these individuals may be needed.

Meanwhile, analysis from the Health Foundation, which was conducted for Panorama, shows that the amount of funding received by mental health trusts in the UK has fallen by £150 million over the past four years. Therefore, this may also be a factor behind the rise in unexpected mental health-related deaths.

At the same time, the sum allocated by the government to general healthcare has risen by £8 billion.

Shadow health minister Luciana Berger raised this point in the House of Commons earlier this week, stating: "This is not a reflection of a country that cares as equally about mental health as it does about physical health."

However, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he believes Britain is "one of the best in the world" in terms of funding mental health support, but acknowledged that more needs to be done to bring down the country's suicide rate and growing number of unexpected deaths among mental health patients.

Mental health support workers will need to play a key role in these efforts to ensure all patients are being monitored appropriately in a bid to prevent more people from needlessly taking their own lives in the future.

Written by Angela Newbury

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