The chances are that we all know somebody who has been affected by a mental health crisis, and the harsh reality is that many of us are susceptible to bouts of anxiety and depression during difficult periods of our lives.
Constituents have reached out to me concerned about whether our mental health services are getting the support they need from both local and national government – especially at a time when mental health issues are increasing year on year, particularly in younger generations. I share their concerns.
The current situation can only be described as a nationwide mental health crisis. According to the Association of Child Psychotherapists, we are walking into a ‘silent catastrophe’ – and I am inclined to agree. According to NHS figures, more young people are being treated for their mental health than ever before. Despite this, the number of hospital beds actually available to mental health patients has fallen by 30% over the last nine years.
Although the government has previously promised “parity of esteem” between mental and physical health, the reality is anything but. Mental health services are being forced to scrimp and save when they are needed now more than ever. Locally, the situation is also troubling. The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is one of the lowest-funded services per head in the country. It is therefore not surprising that young people in our region have had to wait longer than the national average for mental health referrals. To me, at a time when this crisis is reaching epidemic levels, this is completely unacceptable.
Services are consistently being overworked and underfunded despite an urgent need for more support and resources from the government.
For one of the most unaddressed crises this country has faced, it is simply staggering how little notice is being taken of the struggles both staff and patients are facing.
There is an urgent need for both short and long-term solutions. Additional funding must be ring-fenced for mental health services so they can expand their operations. This will allow for more beds and nurses for mental health patients, and accessible early intervention programmes for young people who do not know where to turn.
We must also look at the bigger picture. The government’s current economic agenda is creating a society that is more precarious and stressful than ever before.
An increase in protected funding and early intervention programmes is essential if we are to combat this growing problem. However, if we want to reverse the damage, it is clear there’s a need to rethink some of the political choices that are causing it.