Why is There a Lack of Emergency Care for Mental Health?

One in four people will suffer from a mental health issue: why doesn’t our health service reflect this?

The mental health services in the UK are reaching a state of crisis. Although the demand for these services has risen by 20% in the past five years, the government have cut the budget by 8%. There is a very clear gap between the services that the NHS needs to provide and the services that they are able to. The reason why the UK cannot provide appropriate treatment in mental health emergencies is simple; the NHS currently cannot afford it. A recent study by King’s Fund think that found that two thirds of mental health trusts were or had recently overhauled services, with more than 10% stating that they would be further reducing bed numbers. Austerity is damaging essential services within the NHS, meaning they are failing to mean a rising demand. Some studies actually credit the rise in mental health emergencies to austerity, blaming the cuts to social security and increasingly poverty as factors in new mental health cases.

The lack of emergency mental health care also completely invalidates mental illness and can leave the sufferers feeling completely isolated, and can create potentially life-threatening situations. By not providing adequate treatment for mental health, the government is implicitly telling sufferers that their situation is not important enough to provide for. A case highlighted in a recent BBC article showed that a suicidal patient who called their local crisis team for help waited seven hours to support to arrive. When support was finally offered, it was in the form a phonecall and not a physical visit. It is difficult to imagine this attitude being taken in regards to physical illnesses. As stated by the BBC Health Correspondent, "a similar physical ailment would – or at least should – be answered by an ambulance in a matter of minutes."

 

(Photo Credit: www.pastmindpriject.com)

Reactions to mental health emergencies seem almost relaxed compared to their physical counterparts; this is incredibly worrying. After suffering from my own mental health issues over the course of 2015, I experienced the ineffective nature of the NHS’s mental health facilities first hand. After being diagnosed with very severe anxiety and depression in early February, I was only offered treatment in mid-September – which was in the form of a group session. I found this situation exacerbated my issues greatly. It is very damaging to be told that you have a very serious condition only to be deprived the treatment that you desperately need for a little over half a year.

My situation is far from uncommon. One mental health charity recently found that 14% of patients had received appropriate care in a crisis. There is an undeniable gap between the level of treatment for physical and mental health emergencies. There is a subtle stigmatism for mental health that is revealed by the state of its services. Although mental illness is responsible for 23% of the disease burden in the UK, these issues only receive 13% of the NHS funding. Although the Tories have pledged to increase funding to these services by £1 billion, it is uncertain whether this will be enough to eradicate the current issues. What is certain however is that there is an unfair disparity between physical and mental emergency care that is incredibly dangerous. This must be resolved as a matter of urgency.