A Mental Health Epidemic?

People have often described the National Health Service as the jewel in the welfare crown, and there is little doubt that the organisation is unique and precious to the nation. However, with the rise of mental health problems, is the NHS responding adequately to provide care to those in need?

Mark Austen, ITN newsreader, suggests it is not. He spoke to Radio 4’s World at One about his teenage daughter’s battle with anorexia and the struggle to get the right care. He touchingly remembers how her daughter was “shrinking before our eyes” when she became “dangerously ill” with anorexia and depression. Despite rapid weight loss and the “very bleak, dark world of depression” which she had entered, she was only offered counselling once a fortnight by NHS services; while she needed “quick, significant intervention”, she was given minimal and infrequent care options.

(Photo Credit: www.thesun.co.uk

Eventually Mark Austen’s family took the decision to pay for private care, but withdrew their daughter due to the nature of some of the more extreme treatments. At this moment one has to stop and ask: what about the majority of people in the UK who can’t afford private care, which in an inpatient unit can cost £688 per day? Unfortunately NHS referrals to specialist and intensive care, in the world of eating disorders at least, only occurs when a patient is below a certain BMI, only promoting the idea that weight is the most crucial criterion for helping individuals with eating disorders. This colludes with eating disorders themselves; a patient denied treatment feels invalid because they “are not ill enough” and may only continue to deteriorate.

Thankfully, for Mark Austen and his family, they had the money, the resources and the time to care for her at home and were “lucky” to find somewhere to treat her as a day patient, which is likely to cost in the region of £482 for twelve hours of specialist care. During the interview, he calls on the government to recognise the mental health “epidemic” that we are experiencing. Perhaps, it is time to recognise the scale and nature of this epidemic; while Jeremy Hunt professes to be "incredibly worried" at the “very patchy” nature of mental health services, only time will tell whether anything will be done to mitigate the crisis that the UK is facing.

(Photo Credit: www.change.co.uk