Mental health

Why is mental health important?

One in four UK adults will experience a diagnosable mental health problem in their life. These disorders are common and their effect is profound. At the individual level, people with mental health disorders experience distress, disability and discrimination.

This is compounded by low treatment rates – only 13.1 per cent of people with a mental health disorder report receiving any treatment, meaning the vast majority remain untreated. At the societal level, this translates into mental health disorders being the largest cause of disability and the greatest contributor to disease burden in the UK. Mental health disorders account for 23 per cent of NHS activity and £34bn in costs each year.

How behavioural insights can help

Although mental health is incredibly complex, there are ways in which behavioural insights can help, in terms of both prevention and treatment. In a large randomised controlled trial, we demonstrated that light-touch text messages to patients on waiting lists can improve engagement with Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services, but there is much more that can be done across different settings and with different groups of people.

Here are a few ways behavioural insights can help:

  • Maintaining and promoting wellbeing through designing and implementing light-touch evidence-based preventative interventions.
  • Informing environmental changes to improve behavioural and social factors that are correlated with mental health issues, such as obesity, physical activity and loneliness.
  • Improving awareness of existing support, for example IAPT services, university counselling services or support provided by employers. 
  • Increasing the uptake of support, for example through simplifying the process of accessing it or through providing social norms information on take-up of support (i.e. telling people that others engage with mental health services).
  • Improving engagement with mental health services, in particular those that may face increased demand over the coming year, through low-cost interventions to reduce dropout and missed appointments. 

Where next?

BIT would like to partner closely with NHS trusts, mental health services and other institutions involved in mental health support and provision (e.g. universities) to develop low-cost behavioural interventions aimed at improving mental health in children, young people and adults.

Please get in touch to discuss potential partnerships.