Doctors referring patients for specialist help in psychological therapy are taking note of a new study which suggests one in 10 people have waited more than a decade to receive the help.
The study, from the charity Mind, also found one in five people waiting more than a year for specialist help after being referred by their GP.
This is despite data showing that people who wait less than three months are almost five times more likely to say therapy helped them get back to work as those waiting between one and two years.
While waiting times have improved in recent years, there are still problems accessing therapy, according to the study.
These included poor access for children and people with severe mental illness and a lack of choice of treatments.
Some 68% of more than 500 people surveyed for the report were not offered a choice of therapy despite evidence showing that people were three times more likely to be happy with their treatment if given a choice as those denied one.
Figures also showed that people offered a choice were five times more likely to say therapy definitely helped them back to work.
Mental distress costs the economy in England more than £105bn each year but talking therapies are known to be successful and cost-effective, the charity said.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “Giving someone who is experiencing mental distress access to the right therapy at the right time can make a tremendous difference to their life and prevent them from developing more severe problems further down the line.
“Access to timely psychological therapies can also deliver economic savings, for example by reducing wider societal costs such as unemployment.
“Given the link between economic downturns and increases in mental health problems it is now, more than ever, vital that further investment is made in this area.”
Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said: “I am determined that in future mental health is treated with the same importance as physical health.
“We have already signalled our commitment to mental health by committing £70m this year to roll psychological therapies out to more people.
“The government understands that there is no health without mental health.
“That is why we will publish a new mental health strategy this winter that will tackle these issues.”
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