Wigan communities among most depressed areas in the country
Two Wigan communities have been identified as having a greater proportion of residents suffering with depression than almost anywhere else in the country.
The borough as a whole has a bigger problem with the mood disorder than the national average, analysis of NHS estimates by the House of Commons Library shows.
But the rate in two areas – Laithwaite and Marsh Green – is almost double the UK rate.
Locals told the Wigan Post today that they weren’t completely surprised, the named communities having been particularly badly hit by deprivation.
Charity Mind said England is facing a “mental health pandemic” and called for a stronger approach from the Government to tackle the widening inequalities in care.
The date shows that 14.6 per cent of adult GP patients across Wigan had a diagnosis of depression in 2019-20. This was higher than the 11.5 per cent national average, although it varied significantly between the 40 areas in Wigan.
The rate reached 20.7 per cent in Laithwaite and Marsh Green, which was one of the highest of the 6,800 small areas in England with results.
At the other end of the scale was Standish South where 10.6 per cent of patients were depressed.
One Marsh Green resident, who did not want to be identified, said today: “Those figures don’t come as much of a surprise. Depression is almost bound to be highest in areas where there is high unemployment, low pay along with problems with drugs and crime - and Marsh Green ticks all those boxes.”
Another said: “I think Marsh Green is a strong community and people look out for each other. But it does have its issues and you often don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors.
“A worry is that these figures are from before Covid. I can only think they’ll have got worse since.”
Mind said bereavement, isolation, and the economic recession mean the nation is now facing a “mental health pandemic”, and that a strategic approach from the Government is needed.
Vicki Nash, head of policy and campaigns at the charity, said: “This strategy must focus specifically on communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic, including racialised communities and young people.
“It must address widening inequalities, sort out our woefully underfunded social care system, fund public health, and make sure the education system supports young people’s wellbeing.
“It’s important that no matter where you live, you are able to get the support you need when you need it.”
New figures from the Office for National Statistics show one in five adults experienced depressive symptoms between January and March – more than double the year before.
Recent research from Mind found that the lack of face-to-face support caused by the pandemic has been particularly hard for those with severe mental health problems such as psychosis and schizophrenia.
The House of Commons Library data shows that 0.9 per cent of patients across Wigan were diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other psychoses last year.
These were highest in Laithwaite and Marsh Green, where 1.2 per cent had a diagnosis, while in two areas it was 0.6 per cent.
Researchers warned that variation across the country might reflect differences in the way GPs record health conditions, as well as genuine variation in prevalence.
The Mental Health Foundation said bullying, particularly within gang culture, is one of the key triggers for being diagnosed with schizophrenia – and is often higher in poorer areas.
Dr David Crepaz-Keay, head of applied learning at the organisation, said the gap between rich and poor is only likely to widen post-pandemic.
He added: “If we want to reduce those mental health inequalities then we have to start to prioritise actions against some of these social determinants.
“We also need to get better at providing support to people who are victims of these events as part of our mental health response.
“We can’t treat our way out of this, we have to rebuild our communities back properly.”
The Government said it is providing an additional £2.3bn a year by 2023-24 for mental health services.
A government spokeswoman added: “Hundreds of billions have been spent to help those most in need throughout the pandemic, safeguarding jobs, boosting welfare support, raising the living wage and introducing the £269m Covid Local Support Grant to help children and families stay well-fed.”
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