"When serious conditions present themselves, the NHS is necessary for providing urgent diagnoses, prescriptions of vital meditation, and sometimes even lifesaving hospitalisations."WIKIPEDIA

Content notice: this article contains detailed discussion of mental health. 

We are currently living in a grim, but landmark, moment for mental health – the distressing surge in people suffering from disorders such as depression and anxiety as a result of the pandemic has brought discussions about mental health to the forefront. 

It is internationally recognised that the coronavirus pandemic is going to have a “profound” impact on mental health. The loss of loved ones, the pressure of life under lockdown and a widespread anxiety about contracting Covid-19 has already been seen to have perpetuated pre-existing mental health conditions as well as caused the onset of new ones, such as PTSD. In the UK, a new survey of over 1,300 mental health doctors carried out by the Royal College of Psychiatrists reveals that 43% of psychiatrists have seen an increase in their urgent and emergency caseload while 45% have seen a reduction in their most routine appointments. Once the lockdown ends, the return of these routine appointments combined with the additional burden of an increasing emergency caseload has the capacity to utterly overwhelm our existing services. 

On a more positive note, as a nation, to an extent, we have shown awareness and a commitment to prepare for this incoming “tsunami” of people needing attention for mental health conditions. So far, the government has spread information about available support networks, with particular emphasis on helping NHS staff, who as a collective have been put under extreme pressure by coronavirus. Mental Health Minister Nadine Dorries introduced a helpline specifically for NHS staff, and the leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer has continued to pressure the government to ensure that mental health provision is available for all NHS and care workers, now and for as long as they need it. However, whilst the government has been forced to acknowledge the significant sacrifices made by health workers, with claps every Thursday at 8pm and an eventual decision to exempt NHS staff from the migrant health surcharge, how the government plans to help everyone else to cope with mounting psychological problems remains unclear. Is the government going to invest more money into the NHS specifically for mental health, or simply dedicate a webpage to non-specific advice and links to helplines and charities, passing on its responsibility of dealing with this imminent crisis?

".....CAHMS simply don’t have the resources to manage the huge influx of young people in desperate need for mental health services.”

Anticipating the future situation, at the end of March, the government allocated £5 million to mental health charities to expand support services. This figure is embarrassingly low considering the predicted rise in demand. Moreover, whilst charities are key in our response to mental health, in this country, the NHS is our primary support network. In the case of child and adolescent mental health, NHS England’s website states that nearly 380,000 children and young people were treated through NHS-commissioned community services in 2018/19 – that is approximately 36.1% of children and young people with a diagnosable mental health condition. Additionally, when serious conditions present themselves, the NHS is necessary for providing urgent diagnoses, prescriptions of vital meditation, and sometimes even lifesaving hospitalisations. Delays caused by an overrun service can lead to a significant degradation in people’s already worsening mental health, potentially putting lives at risk. 

I spoke to someone, who wishes to remain anonymous, about their experience with CAMHS (the NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). They said; “There was a 3 month long waiting time between me reaching out for help through my GP and being seen by CAHMS. The very long waiting list led to me developing a far worse condition which could have been prevented if I had received attention earlier. CAHMS simply don’t have the resources to manage the huge influx of young people in desperate need for mental health services.”

In their current state, services such as CAHMS have to prioritise the most urgent cases and end up only being able to deal with people once their illness has already become catastrophically worse. This results in a large number of people requiring immediate and long-term care for conditions which could have been otherwise prevented. When people are left undiagnosed, untreated and required to spend months and months without direct contact with a therapist, not only do their symptoms often become more severe and their experiences more traumatic, but, faced with what seems to be no way out, the risk of self-harm and suicide increases.  


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Mountain View

Am I never enough?

In 2016, the government’s plan for the next five years of mental health care revealed that whilst around a quarter of NHS care in England goes towards mental health, only an eighth of its budget is spent on mental health services in hospitals. In the UK, mental health simply does not get the attention it demands. As mental illness has now exposed itself as an equally legitimate and enduring consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, we must see this as an opportunity to permanently end the prioritisation of physical health over mental health and reform our NHS for good. 

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