Mental health leaders call on Prime Minister to tackle poverty and prevent destitution

25 November 2022

The leaders of 12 national mental health organisations have come together today in a joint statement calling on the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, to ensure every household in the UK has the means to survive the coming winter. The leaders, including our chief executive Sarah Hughes, say that tackling poverty is the single most important step to protecting mental health, and they call for urgent and comprehensive action to address the root causes of destitution.

Dear Prime Minister,

In the UK the cost-of-living crisis runs deep in every community and is having a significant impact on mental health.

High levels of inflation affect everyone as the prices of necessities including food and energy increase. However, the impact is not felt equally. We know those already experiencing inequality, poverty and hardship are being hardest hit. And poverty is the single biggest driver of poor mental health in children.

We also know that people living in the most deprived 10% of areas in the UK are more than twice as likely to die from suicide than those living in the wealthiest 10% of areas.

In 2022 the Trussell Trust who provide emergency support to people in crisis issued 1.3 million food parcels between April and September. 94% of people accessing emergency food parcels are experiencing destitution. That means they are well below the poverty line and cannot afford the essentials to eat, stay warm and dry, and keep clean.

This should worry us all. It is a shameful and unnecessary situation in the UK. As leaders of mental health organisations there is growing demand for our services. We will, of course, continue to do our absolute best to provide the necessary support.

But we want to be crystal clear: the first intervention to reduce mental ill health and prevent suicide is to ensure every household has the means to be safe and warm with enough to eat. We urge the Prime Minister to act with speed and compassion to tackle the root causes of destitution and in doing so prevent suicide and an inevitable rise in mental ill health.

Julie Bentley

Simon Blake OBE
Mental Health First Aid England

Sophie Corlett

Brian Dow
Mental Health UK

Sean Duggan OBE
Mental Health Network, NHS Confederation

Akiko Hart
National Survivor User Network

Victoria Hornby OBE
Mental Health Innovations

Dr Sarah Hughes
Centre for Mental Health

Poppy Jaman OBE
MindForward Alliance

Dr Adrian James
Royal College of Psychiatrists

Tom Madders
Young Minds

Chris Martin
The Mix

Paula Ojok
The Helplines Partnership

Kathy Roberts
Association of Mental Health Providers

Catherine Roche

Mark Rowland
Mental Health Foundation

Michael Samuel MBE
Anna Freud Centre

Rosie Tressler OBE
Student Minds

Mark Winstanley
Rethink Mental Illness

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