January 10, 2017 at 02:57AM
I am, of course, pleased that Theresa May recognises that increasing numbers of adults and children are suffering from mental health difficulties (May pledges to try to reduce stigma, 9 January). The huge emotional burden this puts on families only increases the risks. These difficulties have escalated in the six years since massive cuts to public services and most preventive mental health services, alongside the increased culture of competition that leads to more anxiety and less security.
Having been part of primary prevention and secondary child and adolescent mental health services in my 30-year career in the NHS, it was soul-destroying to see services closed and specialist skills built up over decades being lost. It is galling to hear the plans presented as if they are new and concerning that one of the plans is for teachers to be trained to identify mental health issues and provide interventions. Often teachers, also struggling with cuts to services and increased pressures, can already recognise mental health issues but lack the time and expertise to offer interventions that could make a significant difference. Identification alone is not helpful unless combined with resources to deal with the issues.
The link between mental health difficulties and environmental stresses is well known, and community services can only develop if mental health crises are safely managed. Links between mental health services and schools and GP practices work well and have been used before, but tend to be cut when there are huge pressures on other parts of the system. There is no mention of increasing funding to any mental health services or of any evidence-based focus to these policies.
Dr Julia Nelki
Retired consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, Merseyside
• Re the prime minister’s announcement of new measures to end stigma and unjust life chances for young people with mental illness, schools and their linkage to healthcare and the voluntary and community sector are central to “improve mental health”. As the new UK services are set up and evaluated, could I beg Guardian readers to share their observations with colleagues in the World Health Organisation’s initiative Global Accelerated Action for the Health of Adolescents?
A global “sharing society” could strengthen our government’s planned green paper on mental health, and help planners in countries with less expertise learn from UK successes and failures. I guarantee there will be both failures and successes – but it is the responsibility of the whole spectrum of stakeholders in mental health to learn from the implementation of policy.
Professor Woody Caan
Editor, Journal of Public Mental Health
• So Theresa May is going to improve mental health care. Let me cite my son’s last two years. He is in the highest suicide risk group, single white males between 40 and 45. Recent talk about more support for teenagers is a distraction from the fact that adult mental health services are in a state of near collapse.
He had a major breakdown two years ago, when single and 42. Since then he has been in seven different hospitals. After each discharge, he has relapsed within a few weeks. “Care in the community” has been either conspicuously absent or totally inadequate. The shortage of beds has meant that on five occasions, he was assessed as in need of hospital readmission and, after a long wait in A&E, was transported to a new, strange hospital. The lack of continuity of care for someone already frightened, confused and distressed is absolutely counter to the kind of support necessary.
Providing supported residential accommodation, to ease the transition from hospital back into the world, is essential. The lack of available beds is in part due to “bed-blocking”, because of a lack of such accommodation. Community care teams would be more effective, working together with residential teams in supported accommodation, preparing people for rebuilding their lives in the community, providing a necessary bridge between hospital and the world.
This, Theresa, is a long-term problem in need of a seriously thought-through long-term strategy, and considerable investment.
Name and address supplied
• It is not only acute care that is in difficulties (A&E crisis deepens, 10 January). My local NHS mental health trust has had to temporarily merge two inpatient wards due to staffing shortages as they cannot recruit enough qualified staff. This is not surprising, given the government’s policy of pay restraint in the public services by imposing pay rises of no more than 1% in recent years, and with no sign of any change, despite the effect they must know this has on the ability of the NHS to recruit and retain staff.
• A Christmas card from an NHS forensic psychiatrist schoolfriend a few weeks ago said: “Don’t believe claims re money for mental health. We’ve just had millions chopped off our budget three weeks ago & meltdown consequently.” I expect to read next December that Theresa May gave it all back.
Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire
• The prime minister’s pledge to implement new measures to improve mental health services for young people couldn’t be more timely, as new figures from the Prince’s Trust reveal that one in four young people don’t feel in control of their lives.
In response to these findings and the fact that more young people than ever before are coming to us experiencing mental health issues, we are addressing an urgent need to improve mental health provision by launching our own mental health strategy. We welcome the government’s pledge to implement new measures to improve mental health services for young people and bring more focus to an area where we’ve seen an increasing need for support.
The Prince’s Trust Macquarie Youth Index reveals that young people’s confidence and happiness are at their lowest levels since the report was first launched in 2009. It paints a deeply concerning picture for a generation of young people who feel that their future is slipping away from them.
Many young people feel desperate about their situation; it’s vital that we act now if we’re to help them get the right support to create brighter futures for themselves.
The most important thing we can do to empower these young people is to continue to help them find work, education or training. Now, more than ever before, we need to work together to help them build a brighter future and regain control of their lives.
Dame Martina Milburn
Chief executive, The Prince’s Trust
• As part of the work we undertake across the east of England, Ormiston Families works with children and young people struggling with mental health issues. We see Theresa May’s announcement about a new approach to mental health as hugely significant.
It is well documented that the provision of mental health services across the UK is inadequate and this lack of care has led to an increase in the number of children and young people suffering with mental ill he
alth for prolonged periods of time. Through our services in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire we know early intervention in young people showing signs of mental health issues is critical.
The prime minister talked about focusing “on prevention as well as treatment, especially since so many adult mental health problems – which one in four of us will suffer from at any one time – begin in childhood”. As a charity working on the frontline with children and young people showing signs of mental health issues, we are relieved to hear this. Early intervention, and thus prevention, is key to reducing the number of people suffering with chronic mental health issues.
The numbers in Theresa May’s speech are exactly the type of statistics we are working to reduce.
Mental health is without doubt one of the biggest issues facing our society today and it is good to hear the prime minister is keen for the government to do more to address the problems and “not just in our hospitals but in classrooms and communities”.
Chief executive, Ormiston Families
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