This Is Why The Demands On Mental Health Services Have Risen So High

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This week the Government pledged an extra 21,000 mental health specific members of NHS staff in the face of what is  being described as an ‘impending mental health crisis’.

Just last month the chief executives and chairs from 37 of England’s 53 mental health trusts came out to warn of the fast approaching disaster.

A report by the Children’s Commissioner for England estimated that there are over 800,000 children and young people currently struggling with their mental health in the United Kingdom. Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield says that this figure is the “tip of the iceberg” and the actual numbers are likely to be much higher.

Recent figures indicate that total mental health spending has lowered by £4.5 million this year, despite a rising need for care and a promised £1bn budget increase.

Vulnerable young people face wait times of up to 22 weeks in some parts of the country, with many families paying for their children to receive treatment privately in order for them to be seen when they need it most. A lack of spaces in mental health wards leads to vulnerable individuals (2,100 last year) detained in police cells until a bed for them can be found.

But what is behind this increase in demand for mental health related treatment?

Increasing awareness for mental health, caused by campaigns like Heads Together, led by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, are understood to have encouraged  more to reach out for help with their mental health struggles. Long before Heads Together launched last year, charities like YoungMinds and Mind had started the war, talking at schools all over the country, encouraging people to share their stories and attempting to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 10: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge listen to ambulance man Dan Farnworth and Rich Morton of how they helped each other cope with traumatic situations at a reception of the"Heads together" on World Mental Health Day on October 10, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Pohle - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Movies and TV shows have only really very recently began including characters with accurate and touching mental illnesses, that have worked to normalise the issue. Fans were touched when the show This Is Us showed just how debilitating a panic attack can be, and moved when Stacey in Eastenders struggled with postpartum psychosis.

The fight to start a conversation about mental illness and encourage others to get help finally seems to be making a real effect, with thousands reached by personal stories of Prince Harry, celebrities, and every day people like ambulance drivers and firefighters.

It has also been argued that the exam-centered and social media based environment we have created for our young people is one of the reasons for the increase in cases of anxiety and depression. Not to mention the rose tinted social media world all adults have found themselves trying to survive in.

Whether it’s an increase in those suffering with their mental health or an increase in those admitting to struggling, the NHS is under increasing pressure to keep up with the demand. Unfortunately, the services for those struggling with their mental health are underfunded, overstretched and unable to cope with the current workload – never mind any kind of increase in referrals.

The government’s aim is to recruit enough new nurses, therapists and consultants to treat an extra one million patients by 2020-21. However, the Royal College of Nursing have said that the plans do not add up, and more “hard cash” would be needed for the new staff to be trained in time.

Theresa May pledged to train one teacher in every school in ‘mental health first aid’, a course that would equip them to better deal with mental health and illness in the playground – but is still very far from the clinical counselling actually needed. The total budget given for the project was a measly £200k, which it turns out is only enough to train 1,000 teachers.

There was an overall increase in nurses in the NHS last year of around 6,000, but a 4,000 strong decrease in mental health specific nurses. Things are still looking pretty grim for mental health in the UK.

21,000 extra members of staff would be a great start, it just needs to actually happen.

Images via Getty /iStock

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