About mental health and learning disabilities

The people we provide care for experience mental health problems and/or learning disabilities. Here we provide you with some brief information about these issues to help you understand more about the people we provide care for and why the NHS invests in specialist services for our local communities.

Mental health

Mental health is just like physical health. It can be good or bad, lead to problems that last for a few weeks or ones that need to be managed over a lifetime.

Mental health is about how we think, feel and behave. One in four people in the UK have a mental health problem at some point in their lives, which can affect their daily life, relationships, work and physical health. Mental health problems can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, gender or social background.

Without care and treatment, mental health problems can have a serious effect on an individual and those around him or her. Every year more than 250,000 people are admitted to psychiatric hospitals, and over 4,000 people lose their lives to suicide.

There is no single cause of mental health problems, the reasons they develop are as complex as the individual. However, mental health problems are more common in certain groups, for example, people with poor living conditions, those from ethnic minority groups, disabled people, homeless people and offenders.

People with mental health problems need help and support to enable them to cope. There are many treatment options, including medication, counselling, psychotherapy, complementary therapies and self-help strategies.
In this section we provide information on common mental health problems.

Facts and figures

    • Approximately 30% of all GP consultations are related to a mental health problem
    • One in four of us will experience a mental health problem.
    • It is estimated that approximately 450 million people worldwide have a mental health problem.
    • Over an 18 month period, 23% of people in Britain said they received some treatment or service, not necessarily provided by the NHS, for a mental health problem.
    • About half of people with common mental health problems are no longer affected after 18 months.
    • 2-3% of people will experience Obsessive Compulsive Disorder during their lifetime. It often takes between 10 and 15 years for people to seek professional help.
    • Mentally ill perpetrators were less likely to kill a stranger than those without mental illness.
    • The UK has one of the highest rates of self-harm in Europe, at 400 per 100,000 population.
    • Estimates vary, but research suggests that 20% of children have a mental health problem in any given year.
    • One in 100 people will experience at least one episode of acute schizophrenia during their lifetime.
  • Among teenagers, rates of depression and anxiety have increased by 70% in the past 25 years.
  • Up to 90% of prisoners have a diagnosable mental illness, substance abuse problem or, frequently, both.
  • One in four homeless people will die by suicide.
  • Less than a quarter of people of who have distressing psychotic experiences at some time in their lives remain permanently affected by them.
  • A person with a severe mental health problem is four times more likely than average to have no close friends.
  • Post-natal depression is believed to affect between 8 and 15% of women.
  • In one study 16% of people with psychosis living in the community had been violently victimised.
  • The most common cause of death in men under 35 is suicide
  • After a first episode, approximately 25% of people with schizophrenia make a full recovery and experience no further episodes.
  • People with severe mental illness are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violence.


About learning disabilities

If someone has a learning disability it means that they may not learn things as quickly as other people and they may need more help and support to learn.

A learning disability is not an illness. Some people with a learning disability also experience mental health problems such as depression, but they are not the same thing.

A learning disability is nearly always present from birth, though this is sometimes not recognised until children fail to reach milestones in their development such as sitting up or beginning to talk. Although it is a permanent condition, people with a learning disability can, and do, learn and develop with the right sort of support.

Some people have severe learning disabilities and will need a lot of day-to-day support whereas people with mild or moderate learning disabilities can live with much less help from other people.

‘Learning disabilities’ is an umbrella term which describes a range of conditions including ADHD, autism, Down’s syndrome and dyslexia.

Facts and figures

  • About 985,000 people in England have a learning disability.
  • Only 20% of adults with learning disabilities are known to learning disability services.
  • People with learning disabilities are two and a half times more likely to have health problems than other people.
  • Children and young people with learning disabilities are six times more likely to have mental health problems than other young people.
  • 17% of people with learning disabilities who are of working age have a paid job
  • Nearly one in three people with learning disabilities said someone had been rude or offensive to them in the last year. In most cases, the person who bullied them was a stranger.