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Mental Health Facts

Mental Health Illness in the UK is a massive problem. 

Who is affected?

Pretty much everyone! If you are not a sufferer yourself, then you will almost certainly know someone who is a sufferer at some point in time.

  • 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year. 

  • 1 in 6 people will have depression at some point in their life. Depression is most common in people aged 25-44 years.

  • 1 in 10 people will suffer from a "disabling anxiety disorder" at some stage in their life. For manic depression (Bi-Polar Disorder) the figure is 1 in 100.

  • At any given time, approximately 20 percent of women and 14 percent of men in England have some form of mental illness.

  • 18% of Women & 11% of Men have some form of neurotic disorder such a anxiety, depression, phobias or panic attacks.

  • 1 in 10 people will suffer from a phobia at some point in time.

  • Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain with almost 9% of people meeting criteria for diagnosis - The Office for National Statistics Psychiatric Morbidity report (2001)

  • Between 8-12% of the population experience depression in any year- The Office for National Statistics Psychiatric Morbidity report (2001


At least one million adults are out of work with mental health problems and countless children miss out on schooling and fail to achieve their full potential because their mental distress is not treated properly.

  • Mental ill health costs over 77 billion per year in England alone in lost working days and treatment costs. This works out to cost the UK economy (taxpayer) approximately 1300 per year for each citizen! The mental health charity MIND places the loss figure even higher at 100 billion and counts lost productivity. They say 10% of the UK's gross national product is lost each year due to job-generated stress.

  • Over 91 million working days are lost to mental ill health every year. Half of these lost days are due to stress and anxiety. To put this figure into perspective, in 2005 the UK budget for NHS spending was 67 billion. Mental illness is costing us big!

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

  • OCD affects around 1 in every 50 people.

  • The average OCD sufferer will develop the condition before the age of 25. It is rare to develop OCD over the age of 35 (15% of cases).

  • Those who do receive treatment will typically have suffered with OCD for 7 years before seeking help.

  • OCD is listed amongst the top 10 most debilitating illnesses by the WHO (World Health Organisation). OCD is thought to affect 2-3% of the UK population.

  • OCD Recovery rates:

Type of Treatment

Improvement Rate

Long-Term Improvement


No treatment



15% get progressively worse.

Exposure and Ritual Prevention (ERP)


75% maintain their improvement

About 20% relapse and about 25% aren't able to use ERP.

Medications (typically SSRI's - Prozac, Anafranil, etc)

60-80% experience a 20-40% symptom improvement 

70-90% relapse within a few weeks after stopping taking their medication.

Medication does not cure OCD and can have drawbacks which must be balanced against possible advantages.

ERP plus medication

Same as ERP alone 80-90%

Same as ERP but medication relapse rate is considerably lower for those who complete ERP.

SSRI medications are anti-depressants. Therefore combination treatment for those with OCD and depression is more effective.

Information adapted from "Monster in the Cave" by Mellinger and Lynn.


Most people have a brush with mental illness at some point in their lives. Overall, mental illness remains stigmatised even though it is so prevalent which is a ridiculous position for us to take culturally. As a culture we need to address this. This problem is woven into the fabric of our society, and is affecting every aspect of it. 10-20% of young people involved in criminal activity are thought to have a psychiatric disorder. It is interesting to note that in traditional so-called primitive, non-Westernised communities such as the Amish (who still live a 17th Century lifestyle), we find clinical depression is almost unknown. Similarly we find this is also the case in many indigenous tribal communities (The Amazon, Papua New Guinea). Reasons for this are many and varied, but central to the wellness of such groups is a strong sense of "community". What this means in practice is that if an individual is emitting a "Help....I'm lost!" signal, then the community sees this and addresses it. The community rallies to that individual and supports them back into good health, addressing the root of the problem (I'm overworked...I feel unloved etc). Here in the UK, if you send out a signal that says "Help...I'm lost!" What do you get? Mostly ignored. If you do get noticed you get at best pity...at worst scorn, but rarely any practical solutions. Just getting noticed often means you have to be at the point of complete crisis, total shutdown, unable to function. Only then does someone say "This person needs help." This can be easily avoided by simply recognising the signs earlier and taking steps to correct the situation. We however by and large find ourselves simply unequipped to deal with it. We have literally lost our understanding of these problems. Our sense of community is vague at best, and even when we do want to help our neighbour (or family member) we often don't know how to. From the Victorians we inherit a picture of mental illness as some kind of dirty affliction....something Freudian and dark...something depraved even. Certainly collectively, it remains mysterious and  we are confused about it. Some still have a sense that it is something shameful, sinful, a personal weakness. So our usual response as Pink Floyd rightly points out in the Dark Side of the Moon is "Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way". In other words we bury our discomfort and try to plow on regardless...because culturally...that's the deal; that's what's expected of you. It's becoming clearer and clearer that not addressing an emotional disturbance is what often causes a mental illness, and culturally we are often encouraged to not address it. It's not that we're a hard hearted lot. We're not. We just literally don't know what to do with it! Clearly, this is not working!

So what is the answer?

Well, it's complicated because there are so many factors which contribute to these problems, but let's at least begin with the recognition that we need to take seriously the fact that there is a problem. Let's collectively de-stigmatise the problem, and then let's set to work to recognise that many of these problems are avoidable. Prevention is better than cure! Central to avoiding these difficulties is the recognition that we need to cultivate good mental hygiene. This means learning what factors create anxiety and what factors decrease anxiety. Collectively, we need to start valuing mental health as much as we value our physical health, because quite simply failing to do so has consequences, the evidence of which is plain for all to see. Together we need to start admitting what makes us ill. Often the answer is really simple. We could start by asking "What's wrong?" ......."What are you struggling with....what needs are not being met?" This is a cultural process, and it will take time, but for now you can make sure that YOU build awareness in this regard. If you're well, then you'll serve as a beacon for others. This website is designed to give a starting point for this process. I hope in some small way it will make a difference to peoples lives. Understanding is everything!

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Copyright John Crawford 2003-2012