The shocking truth is that people with severe mental illness, like bipolar and schizophrenia, die, on average, 20 years younger than the rest of the population of the UK. You may reasonably think that this is a direct result of suicide, which is significantly higher in these groups that in the general population. But it isn’t. The shocking truth is that it relates to the complicated physical health problems that go hand-in-hand with mental illness.
People with illnesses like bipolar are often required to take strong medication to stabilise their condition; such medication is generally very effective – but unfortunately there is a down side. Significant weigh-gain is one……and along with this side-effect comes a much higher risk of conditions such as heart disease, breast cancer and bowel cancer developing. And then there’s the risk of developing diabetes, either directly as a result of taking certain medications, or indirectly as a consequence to the aforementioned weight gain.
Those of us who live with mental illness are aware of these risks. However, lots of health professionals aren’t. This means they often fail to adequately monitor the physical health of people udergoing treatment for severe mental illness. The UK charity – Rethink Mental Illness – argues that If they did this better, it could stop people developing additional serious health problems.
Rethink is asking people to contact their MPs to raise this issue with local mental health trust. As they rightly say, MPs and Chief Executives of trusts need to know that local people care about this! You can contribute to the campaign by visiting the Rethink website at: http://www.rethink.org
You can also watch this short interview with Janet Brown, a carer who talks about her son Daniel’s experiences of the physical health problems that have accompained his diagnosis and treatment for schizophrenia: