The college cites 'a fundamental failure in the development and implementation of mental health policies' as an underlying cause of the crisis and 'a contributory factor to the increasing problems in the implementation of community care'.
Launching the Manifesto for mental health, college president Dr Robert Kendall said immediate action coupled with a long-term strategy to invest in services was vital to avert an imminent crisis.
The manifesto contains a nine-point plan for action. It recommends a national strategy to put in place comprehensive services, adequately funded mental health promotion work, improved training for staff in the mental health field and a review of the relevance of current mental health and community care legislation.
-- Excessive run-down in the numbers of psychiatric beds - halved in the past 15 years
-- An inadequate increase in community services to cope with patients no longer in hospital care
-- Inadequate or non-existent provision of 24-hour nursed beds to provide long-term care for very dependent severely mentally ill people
-- Staff shortages in key areas which mean proven therapies and techniques which can benefit patients are not widely available.
Dr Kendall said: 'The current crisis in community care cannot be allowed to continue. This country could and should provide mental health services as good as those provided for other types of ill health.'