Although real progress has been made recently as to how mental health patients are treated, the UK is still unable to cope with the scale of the crisis.
The stigma surrounding mental health is being broken down, as the subject has increasingly become a part of everyday conversation.
Although this new and improved attitude is encouraging more and more people to seek help for their problems, they find themselves being let down by a system failing to provide help.
According to Mind, the harsh reality is one in four people in the UK will experience some form of mental health problem every single year.
This means there are potentially millions of people who are going to both the NHS and private healthcare services for support.
Unfortunately, many of these people are failing to get the proper help they need, especially due to the long waiting lists.
Emily Waller, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer for Mind, told UNILAD, not only are more services needed, but those which exist are of a dangerously low quality.
It’s good we now have more and more data about the number of people getting access to support and we can see how long people are having to wait, but we mustn’t forget, the quality of services people receive is incredibly important.
We know from speaking to people many don’t get the help they need, when they need it.
For too long, those of us with mental health problems have had to put up with second-rate services, while two thirds of people with common mental health problems don’t receive any treatment or support at all from the health system.
This just shows how far we still need to go to ensure everyone with a mental health problem gets the support they need.
In last year’s annual State of Care report, published by the independent regulator of health and social care services, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), only six per cent of NHS mental health services were rated as outstanding.
While 68 per cent were rated as good, high demand, unsuitable facilities, workforce shortages and outdated services were all outlined as being key problems across the board.
In fact, several facilities didn’t even meet basic safety standards, with medicines not being locked away, and fixtures and fittings not being secured, so they could be used in suicide attempts.
— Mind (@MindCharity) December 6, 2017
Another major problem noted by the report was an astonishing 73 per cent of mental health beds are located on locked rehabilitation wards.
Rather than encouraging patients to live independently as part of their recovery, instead, these outdated wards make people feel like they’re being institutionalised, which only has negative effects.
In response to this, Mind’s Chief Executive, Paul Farmer is concerned the CQC must continue to ‘highlight the same basic ward safety issues time and time again’.
When someone is in hospital for their mental health, they’re at their most vulnerable and they and their loved ones should be able to trust they’re receiving care in a safe, therapeutic environment.
We’re concerned to see many facilities don’t meet the needs of people with mental health problems and inspections continue to reveal examples of outdated and sometimes institutionalised care.
The prevalence of locked mental health rehabilitation wards is particularly alarming.
A spokesman for the mental health charity SANE told UNILAD long waiting times are plaguing services with desperate people being turned away by the emergency services.
He recalled one particularly alarming incident:
A highly distressed young man called us while standing on the roof of a building, saying he could see no other way out, but when we called for an ambulance we were told it would not arrive for 50 minutes!
Such is the pressure on emergency services.
We know of similar stories of desperate people waiting for crisis resolution teams, some of which may take 12 hours or more to get to a person, in many cases leaving the police to have to cope with the emergency.
He elaborated on how these waiting times affect young people, saying:
Children can be particularly badly affected, only a quarter of those who need treatment actually get it and some wait as long as 18 months for help.
There are growing numbers of people turned away from A&E when in crisis due to a lack of staff and beds; increases in people becoming so unwell they have to be detained under the Mental Health Act; and growing numbers sent to hospitals, miles from home because that is the only bed available.
— SANE (@CharitySANE) January 3, 2018
However who does responsibility lie with for this situation and what exactly is the solution?
This question is particularly pertinent on Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, during which the topic of discussion is stress, and how this innate human instinct for survival is constantly triggered as part of our toxic 21st century way of life.
So much so, it’s making us ill. But here’s how you can combat stress:
Unfortunately there’s no simple solution, and although society’s attitude towards mental health has improved, governmental cuts to services haven’t reflected this.
Emily Waller from Mind believes it’ll take years of work to resolve the situation, thanks to years of negligence from consecutive governments.
Waller told UNILAD: ‘For decades, mental health has been underfunded and ignored by successive governments.’
Waller said ‘we all have mental health and it needs looking after’, adding:
It’s going to take decades of investment and effort to reverse the effect of underinvestment in services, and as mental health commands more and more public attention, demand for services will continue to rise so services need to keep pace and make sure they can meet demand.
She cited data which shows ‘public attitudes have improved by 9.6 per cent’ and said people with mental health problems are reportedly facing significantly less discrimination, but added, ‘the job is far from done’.
Too many people are still made to feel isolated and ashamed as a result of their mental health problem and that change in attitudes hasn’t been matched by an improvement in support.
When it comes to improvements to health services, we now have a five-year plan for transforming mental health care, which promises £1 billion of funding and support for an extra one million people.
The Government and NHS need to ensure it’s delivered so everyone can access support for their mental health when they need it.
But, since speaking to Waller, two committees of MPs published a report saying the five-year plan will take too long to come into effect and will ‘fail a generation’ through complacency and inadequacy.
Time is running out.
Talking is often the first step to moving forward. While talking about mental health is vital, UNILAD are calling for action this Mental Health Awareness Week.
We are petitioning the government to improve mental health services offered on the NHS for young people, who sometimes have to wait ten years from the moment they experience their first symptoms to get adequate treatment.
We have written to Jeremy Hunt MP to tell him about our petition and demand the government take action. You can help by signing our petition, in partnership with WHOLE, here. To find out more about our campaign you can read our manifesto.
You can speak to someone confidentially about your mental health and wellbeing by calling one of the following numbers: Samaritans – 116 123 , Childline – 0800 1111 (UK) / 1800 66 66 66 (ROI), Teenline – 1800 833 634 (ROI).