Naked Politics Blogger
Theresa May announced in January that “mental health problems are everyone’s problems” and that more needed to be done to tackle these issues. It was recently reported that “Of the 53 out of 59 mental health trusts in England which responded to the FOI request, 29 said their budget would be lower this year than last.” This was disclosed when discussing funding for mental health patients and treatment in the NHS. Worried by this lack of funding, I was fuelled to contemplate what this actually means and what effect this will have on those dealing with a mental health issue.
It is estimated that around one of every four people will at some point in their lives face a mental health problem. Furthermore, it is widely acknowledged that mental illnesses are one of the highest leading causes of disability and ill-health worldwide. These sort of facts are hard to ignore and make it more problematic than ever to not be asking the question: Why are we not investing more into this area of health?
Like many other people I’m sure, I fully understand that we are in a precarious situation as it is. There is a lack of beds and funding for many hospitals around the country. However, does this ultimately come down to a view that because mental health does not always present itself physically, that the government should simply cut the funding of its treatment year after year. The next thought that arises may be: at what point is it decided that funding has become too low to provide a suitable standard of care to the many dealing with mental illnesses?
I can in no way deny that I have a personal interest in this subject and therefore am deeply worried as to what the ultimate effect of these costs will be. Having received treatment myself for a mental health issue (I suffered from an eating disorder in my late teenage years) I am surely living proof of how important the care I received was in order for me to reach a place where I could function and sustain a much improved quality of life. The hard truth of it is I was one of the lucky ones. Having Type 1 diabetes coupled with an eating disorder put me in an incredibly dangerous position and it was medically evaluated that if I was not admitted into a rehabilitation centre for treatment and care I would lose my life. I am well aware that it was because of the fact that I was such a high mortality risk (having diabetes as well as an eating disorder) that I gained a place in a rehabilitation centre and the subsequent costs that incurred of being admitted into rehabilitation. I am in no doubt that without the program in place and care that I was given alongside it that I would not be here today. If the funding had not been there to provide this for me, I would have lost my life. I cannot help but think of somebody else in that position, losing out on life because the funds are quite simply not there for them to receive the care and treatment that they need. Perhaps more troubling is the idea that if they had a broken leg they would be treated instantly without question.
As the years have gone on I have wondered more and more if this had happened to me now, would I have been given the option of getting much needed treatment as I did then? It is a common occurrence now that many people, in some cases people who are harming themselves or close to taking their own lives, are told that there is little that can be done for them until they reach the top of a 6+ month waiting list. This seems to me to be an extremely dangerous place to leave somebody in who may be feeling vulnerable and helpless as it is. This also highlights to me the crucial role that many support groups or helplines play. Without a nurturing forum for people to turn to after becoming merely a number on a list, many lives would surely be compromised.
It is of no surprise, that due to these increasing cuts to funds for mental health year after year, many patients, if found a bed in a treatment centre, are being sent hundreds of miles away from their families and outside support. Yes, it is a blessing that they may have been given a bed in the first place in the current climate but unfortunately being separated from familiarity and the support of family has resulted in patients taking their own lives. When I suffered a relapse in the middle of my own treatment within the community I was sent to Oxford, hundreds of miles away from my family and friends. Being in the total unknown, surrounded by strangers and with no familiarity of my location I felt more overwhelmed and helpless than ever. Rather than comforted and supported I felt deserted and shunned. Consequently once I returned home with the support of my family, friends and outpatient treatment I was able to start making good headway into the recovery progress. When my family queried why I had been sent so far away the answer of course, was funding. There was simply not enough money in the mental health sector to secure me inpatient treatment without being moved halfway across the country.
I cannot claim to know the answer as to where funds can be reshuffled and balanced to provide more for mental health treatment and support to people. I only provide a view as to why funding is so important and needed in order to care for people who are suffering through a mental illness. If we started viewing mental health as we did any other illness or disability, surely the need for funding would be more obvious and can truly be used to save more people’s lives.