A fresh approach to the UK’s mental health crisis

The UK is facing a mental health crisis, with NHS and health professionals often overstretched and struggling to provide the right standards of care. Tackling this issue requires a fresh approach, tailored to the needs of the individual and supported by professionally trained specialists, argues Derrick Farrell, CEO at Vita Health Group

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Testing times: The UK's mental health crisis is getting worse
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Derrick Farrell
On 26 July 2019 12:48

The UK’s mental health crisis poses serious challenges around the provision of systems, resources and standards of patientcare. For the National Health Service (NHS) this problem requires extra skills and around the clock support for the public, something which can place a significant burden upon Health Trusts, which are already struggling due to patient numbers.

Mental health is a complex issue, with many variations, and there is no one size fits all approach. A solution for one person, may not be right for another and so treatment programmes need to be specialised and diverse. It’s also crucial to ensure early identification of mental health issues, allowing intervention so that the individual receives the right diagnosis and evidence-based treatment.

Mental health was once a relatively taboo subject with many sufferers hiding in the dark about the problems they were facing. It used to be something that was considered shameful to admit which led to many individuals suffering in silence.

Thankfully, as a nation we have moved on from these stereotypes and many influential people are becoming advocates for speaking up about their mental health issues, which has allowed for a more open conversation.

This in turn means that many more people are coming forward requiring specialist services, something that although welcome, presents challenges around resourcing. Official data shows that one in four of us are likely to experience some version of mental ill-health in our lifetimes, regardless of nationality, age and lifestyle. This shocking statistic really hits home about how many individuals were, and still are, suffering in silence.

As well as this, research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found that specifically depression is found in 3.3 people out of 100. If left untreated, metal health can cause severe ill-health, distress and in the worst-case scenario, can lead to individuals committing suicide.

The ONS also separately reported that throughout 2017, 5,821 suicides were registered – this equates to 10.1 deaths per 100,000 people. In terms of gender, men are more likely to take their own life with the statistics finding it was 15.5 male deaths in 100,000 people compared to female which was 4.9 per 100,000. Research has shown that men in particular are far less likely to open up about mental health concerns due to the stigma still attached to the issue.

The NHS is becoming inundated with increasing cases of mental ill health, with GPs and practitioners facing extreme pressure to help as many people as possible before it becomes too late.

The government has set some provisions in place to try and rectify the situation we by offering extra support. One of these is to coach new teachers in mental health awareness and train them on how to spot signs of students struggling with mental health.

As part of this pledge, it has been confirmed that schools, social workers, local authorities and healthcare services will all receive extra provision to ensure the same standards for physical health are adhered to at all times.

This is particularly relevant as most cases of mental ill-health develop during childhood, making early-dentification critical. However, it’s important to note that the rise in mental health treatments have brought positive innovations around technology, care and treatment. One solution that is currently being looked at is an app, designed by The Student Room which aims to tackle mental health at UK universities.

Entitled ‘Enlightened’ it is currently targeting 40,000 students across five universities and it will aim to track student wellbeing in an attempt to combat rising dissatisfaction and mental health issues at university. The app is the first of its kind and is being tested as part of a £2million government project which is backed by the Office for Students. This app comes after a nationwide poll in March found ‘alarmingly high’ levels of anxiety and loneliness across students at UK universities.

The poll conducted by Insight Network found that 50% of students had thought about self-harming in the past year. Tacking the issue of mental health is by no means an easy task. Solving the problem requires extensive expertise and resources, as well as around the clock support. It is incredibly important that those who are needing help are given practical solutions that are proven to work at treating mental health straight away.

This often consists of a variety of short-term psychological therapies which can be either group classes, individual sessions face-to-face or over the phone using secure digital resources.

It is key to have the right people in place to give individuals the best possible chance of getting better, this means having psychological therapists who are qualified with a NICE gold standard treatment accreditation.

Higher standards of care are vital for supporting mental health cases, working alongside NHS programmes that are in place to improve support. In order to improve the quality of services, better funding for well-established organisations is needed to provide experts who have the necessary knowledge and experience of illnesses in this field to help provide faster resolutions.

The mental health crisis is an issue which doesn’t have an easy and quick solution. However, allowing specialist organisations to work alongside the NHS will help to ensure that members of the public who are suffering receive the right standard of care and options for treatment, at all times.

Derrick Farrell is CEO of Vita Health Group, one of the UK's leading providers of mental health services

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