moneyDeputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has called for major investment to be made into mental health research.

The leader of the Liberal Democrats added that his party’s next election manifesto would include a pledge to raise annual research spending in England by £50 million by 2020.

Mental health accounts for 23% of the UK’s disease burden, yet only receives 6% of the medical research budget, according to figures from the British Medical Journal.

Current annual mental health research spending is estimated to be £74 million, mostly through government agencies.

Speaking to the BBC, Clegg said: “My ambition is that we should understand mental health just as well as we understand physical health. 

“I want us to be able to talk about, analyse and treat depression just as we treat diabetes. 

“For far too long mental health has been a bit of a taboo subject - yet it affects one in four people in this country.”

Central issue in election campaign

Clegg’s announcement has been welcomed by Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind. “It’s really encouraging to see one of the main parties prioritising mental health at this early stage in the development of their manifestos,” he said. “Mental health should be a central issue in the upcoming election campaign, which needs to address the challenge of creating a society that values the mental health of its citizens. 

“During the recession, we saw the impact on the country's mental health, with a significant increase in antidepressant prescribing, use of mental health legislation and, tragically, the number of people taking their own lives.

“Consequently, poor mental health is becoming a national crisis. At a time when demand has never been greater, we know that severe cuts to mental health services, prolonged waiting times and a lack of choice in treatments are making things worse for people living with mental health problems. Other services that help people stay well, including community or voluntary activities, advice services, and benefits, have also been scaled back, which has had a devastating impact on mental health. 

“Investment in research is important and needs to be a part of a comprehensive approach to putting mental health on a par with physical health in the lifetime of this Parliament as well as beyond. 

“We look forward to hearing what the other parties consider to be their priorities and what commitments they will make to improving services and support for all of us with mental health problems.”