Tens of thousands of people are using NHS mental health services in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes, figures show.
Mental health charity Mind is calling for the Government to prioritise mental health, after figures showed a significant rise in the number of people receiving help across England in the last year.
NHS Digital figures show around 21,370 people were in contact with mental health services in the NHS Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group area at the end of July.
However, this was down slightly from 26,735 at the end of June, and 23,610 at the same point last year.
Across England, 1.44 million people were in contact with mental health services at the end of July.
Though down slightly from 1.46 million a month previously, this was a rise of 9 per cent compared to the same month a year before.
It was also the highest figure for the month of July since comparable records began in 2016.
Leila Reyburn, policy and campaigns manager at Mind, said: “These figures demonstrate just how many of us are struggling with our mental health as we emerge from the pandemic.
“The Government must make sure significant investment is given to mental health services from the £5.5 billion it has committed to the NHS.
“Even before the pandemic, mental health services were playing catch up after decades of underfunding; now is the time for decision makers to put their money where their mouths are and prioritise the mental health of the nation.”
The majority (64 per cent) of those in contact with mental health services in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes at the end of July were adults – 13,760.
There were also 5,585 children using mental health services for young people, and 2,350 people in contact with learning disabilities and autism services in the area.
Rethink Mental Illness said there is no one single factor driving the national increase in people using mental health services – but the pandemic has “undoubtedly had a significant influence”.
Mark Winstanley, chief executive of the charity, said it has disrupted people’s access to support, leading to a backlog for care.
He added: “The last 18 months have clearly caused substantial emotional distress for people and this has been more acute for people living with severe mental illness.
“It has increased the risk factors which contribute to poor mental health such as debt, social isolation and unemployment.
“It is critical our health, social care and welfare systems are strengthened through reform and investment to address the new challenges faced by people experiencing mental illness.”
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said its £500 million Mental Health Recovery Action Plan will ensure those in need receive the right support.
A DHSC spokesman added: “Covid-19 has affected everyone in the UK and community and crisis services have continued to provide support throughout the pandemic, with digital and face to face appointments.”