Tackling the UK’s mental health crisis
The UK is currently facing major challenges around mental health support, in terms of resources, systems and patientcare. The crisis, which has emerged in recent years, has put a huge strain on the National Health Service (NHS) as professionals strive to increase support in key areas where it is needed.
Following years of silent suffering, the public is beginning to wake up to the serious dangers posed by common mental health problems, specifically depression and a range of anxiety disorders. Whilst many people believe that mental health issues are something that they will never experience, the reality is that they affect people of all ages and backgrounds. Statistics show that 1 in 4 of us are likely to experience an episode of mental ill health in any given year regardless of your background, professional status or medical history. If left untreated this leads to more suffering and distress, triggering a cycle of ill-health.
Research from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that that depression is found in 3.3 out of 100 people. With mental health problems that go untreated, it unfortunately often leads to individuals who are constantly suffering to consider ending their life. Suicide in the UK is an epidemic that must be tackled. Latest figures from the ONS confirmed that throughout 2017, there were 5,821 registered suicides which equates to 10.1 deaths per 100,000 people. Out of this statistic, male suicide was significantly higher than female, with 15.5 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to 4.9 female deaths per 100,000.
This year, it has been reported from the NHS Information Services Division that suicide deaths in Scotland have risen by 15% in 2018, from 680 in 2017 to 784 in 2018. These figures also highlight that the suicide rate is three times higher in the most deprived areas of Scotland. In terms of gender divide, 73% of these reports were men.
Worryingly, ONS data also found that mental health is a problem beginning early-on in life. The report stated that three out of five secondary school children have either experienced mental health problems or are close to someone that has. It also revealed that one in seven of the 11-19-year-olds said their mental health is either poor or very poor. When asked if they would know where to go to access support for mental health, two in five said they wouldn’t know where to go. As well as this, the Children’s Society has recently found that more than 100,000 children are denied mental health treatment each year.
However, the mental health crisis is not an issue that has gone unnoticed by the government and our health service professionals. A new prevention plan has recently been announced by Theresa May which will mean every new teacher will be trained on how to spot the signs of mental health issues. The pledge includes better access to education, training and support across communities to try and change the approach to mental health. Schools, social workers, local authorities and healthcare services will all receive extra support to ensure the people look after mental health conditions to the same standards of physical health.
During the chancellor’s previous autumn budget statement, it was confirmed that the government will increase funding for mental health services by at least £2bn a year in real terms by 2023-24 specifically to pay for 24-hour mental health support in every major hospital emergency department and more mental health ambulances. As well as this, last year the NHS planned to spend £12.2 billion on mental health in 2018/19 – roughly one in every ten pounds spent by the Department of Health and Social Care. Despite this, the problem appears to be getting worse.
The NHS is currently facing a real challenge to try and control challenges posed by mental health issues. Tackling this problem is no easy task and requires extensive resources, expertise and around the clock support. To correctly deal with the problems in a professional manner, organisations need to have experience in managing and recognising different types of mental health problems and understanding where they can stem from.
It is vital that those needing help and support are given practical applications that work to treat mental ill health straight away. These often consist of short-term psychological therapies in a variety of methods. It could be a range of group classes at varied times, individual sessions face-to-face or over the phone or secure video conferencing, and digital resources. Psychological therapists qualified with NICE gold standard treatment accreditation is also key.
The reality is that higher standards for mental health care are urgently needed alongside NHS programmes to improve support. The solutions offered must be of a professional standard and ensure the end-user is truly benefiting from the quality of care. In order for this to happen, better funding for more established organisations that have expert hands-on experience and knowledge of mental health conditions is required to create instant solutions for these issues.
Mental health challenges are now more widely recognised and understood by the general public but addressing the rise in patients requires ensuring that we have the right level professional support and intervention.
There are no quick fix solutions, but by working alongside our NHS colleagues and other specialist organisations the issue of prevention as well as treatment can be tackled to ensure that that the public receive the right standard of care at the right time.
By Derrick Farrell, CEO, Vita Health Group