The Madhouses Act 1774 marked the first time that the UK addressed mental health issues. In 1808, the County Asylums Act permitted the establishment of facilities for people with mental disorders, but it did not require the Justices of the Peace to provide them with places to live. The Lunacy Act 1845 provided for the establishment of a Board of Commissioners in Lunacy.
In 1859, there were around 38,000 individuals in all types of care facilities in Wales and England who were regarded as lunatics. Some were private patients, while the others were regarded as paupers. Around 17,000 of them were in county asylums, while 7,000 were in workhouses.
Infirmaries had about ten percent of their workhouses providing separate mental wards. In 1862, the Lunacy Act permitted voluntary admission for patients in psychiatric hospitals. Patients who had been there for five years were allowed to enter licensed facilities as voluntary boarders.
In 1870, there were various moves to separate children from adults with mental disorders. In 1878, the Metropolitan Asylums Board opened the Darenth School for children with learning difficulties. A separate facility for adults with mental disorders was also established in 1880.
The Lunacy Act of 1890 made local authorities responsible for maintaining mental health facilities. By 1938, there were over 131,000 patients in mental hospitals in Wales and England, and 13,000 in District Asylum facilities in Scotland. There were also seven Royal Mental Institutions.
When the National Health Service was established in 1948, mental health services were not included in the physical health services. The lack of resources and staff led to the first national strike in the NHS in 1956.
In 1998, a new mental health service for children and adolescents was created, known as CAMHS. It is mainly supported by local government agencies and is operated by the NHS. It is aimed at providing a comprehensive and independent mental health service for children and adolescents until they are old enough to leave school.
In 2018, Theresa May became the UK’s first female suicide prevention minister. She was appointed during World Mental Health Day. This event was also held as the country hosted the first global mental health summit.