People in need unable to access mental health services

Mental health patients are being put at risk during the coronavirus lockdown, a new survey by Mind has revealed. 

One in four individuals who tried to access help in the last two weeks were unable to do so, with some reporting being turned away by crisis teams and not being able to get in touch with their local community mental health team.

This survey shows the huge impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on mental health services in the UK, with most face-to-face outpatient appointments cancelled.

Paul Farmer, the chief executive of Mind, detailed that there have also been reports of people being discharged too early from hospital, while others have been left on mental health wards indefinitely because there is a limited amount of community support available. He pointed out that being sent home at the wrong time can significantly affect recovery, and put people at a higher risk of suicide. 

He went on to say that people who are suffering from acute mental health needs ‘must not be forgotten’ as a result of the reduced NHS services due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Mind found that 24 per cent of people had trouble contacting a GP or community mental health team, and that a fifth had had their appointment cancelled altogether. 22 per cent felt uncomfortable using the telephone or video conferencing to communicate with their healthcare staff. 

Jake Mills, CEO and founder of Chasing the Stigma, the organisation behind the Hub of Hope and Ambassador of Hope training programme, said: “While these new figures show the devastating effect the coronavirus lockdown is having on people’s mental health — be it from isolation, change, exacerbation of an existing problem or an inability to access services — let’s not pretend that accessing mental health services in the UK was a smooth ride under non-lockdown conditions.” 

“While the conversation surrounding mental health has changed dramatically, and more people than ever are speaking out and seeking help, there is often a shortage of help available, with extensive waiting lists. The average wait for secondary care and specialist eating disorder therapy is approximately 18 months, and accessing IAPT services can be a difficult pathway to navigate, with many people giving up before they even reach a therapist.”

“We have heard horrifying stories of people turned away from A&E, to then die by suicide. People with complex conditions not serious enough for secondary care, but too complex for IAPT services, so receiving no help at all. Parents and teachers imploring CAMHS services for help for a desperately unwell child. This was never a bed of roses.” 

“Those suffering from mental health issues in the UK have always had to jump through hoops to access basic, humane care. The coronavirus pandemic has simply exacerbated an already difficult situation.”

“Following this lockdown, we will be facing an even larger mental health crisis, with more people than ever reaching out for support after this difficult time, from complex, traumatic grief to anxiety and depression. The NHS, the government and local policy makers must act fast to mitigate the rising risk and put a workable plan in place to deal with the rising tide to come.”