According to a consensus statement by over 50 major organisations led by the National Mental Health Commission, people with persistent and severe mental illness have their lives shortened by about 20 years and suicide only plays a small role in that appalling statistic.
The main causes are preventable chronic illnesses. Six times the risk of dying of heart disease, four times the risk of dying of lung disease, double the risk of diabetes plus huge smoking and obesity rates.
There are many reasons for this. Drugs for schizophrenia induce weight gain and diabetes but neglect and stigma pervade health services and clinicians who ignore, underestimate or seriously discount the risks and signs of these life-shortening diseases.
The statement says that people living with a mental illness have a right to receive safe and high-quality care to the same standard as everyone else and be fully informed about what’s available to them and not discriminated against because of their mental health issues.
Awareness of this unacceptable situation though, is the first step.