This pandemic has taken its toll on our mental health and wellbeing. In early 2021 more than 1 in 5 adults reported experiencing depression. Some groups have been worse affected than others with 43% of young women reporting experiencing depression over the same period. Though England is returning to some normality, some may not see their mental health troubles ease alongside restrictions.
We must ensure that mental health services and organisations are equipped to deal with the demand that they are seeing now and are prepared to help people as we rebuild. Modelling suggests that this increase in mental health service demand may go on for some time, so we will need to get this right to stop mental health problems spiralling to crisis point.
I have been asking service providers and stakeholders in the mental health space what the Government needs to do to protect and repair our mental health, and services going forward.
It is clear that the increase in mental health service demand requires increased resources, so the Government’s pledge to invest an additional £2.3 billion a year in mental health services by 2023-24 is welcome. I am asking the Government to allow local service providers to direct the extra funds to the areas of their service they feel need most support. In Devon, this may be to increase the number of inpatient beds to further reduce out of area placements. Further funding may also be needed into children’s mental health and eating disorder services where we are seeing significant local increases in demand.
It is crucial that we find ways of measuring mental health outcomes to hold our Government and NHS to account. We need to measure more than the amount of money going into the system. We need to know people are getting diagnosed earlier, treated earlier – and finally getting better as a result! I am currently working with providers on ways of measuring mental health outcomes to find the right metrics. What gets measured – gets done!
I was astounded that not only do we not measure waiting times for Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), but the Government has no plans to do so. This is despite longstanding concerns about waiting times for children getting access to mental health support. I am therefore asking the Government to establish waiting time standards for these services, begin measuring waiting times and to work towards improving them. We cannot ignore this issue.
This is a small part of a huge problem with children’s mental health, wellbeing, behaviour, and education. The way we help children coming out of this pandemic needs a huge shake-up with compassion at its core. I will be asking Government to be more flexible with its funding to schools so that they can do what is needed to help children in their care. What is needed in one school is different to another.
The Government is currently working on a new Health and Care Bill which intends to better integrate aspects of health and social care. I have been working with mental health stakeholders as well as the team working on this Bill to look at how we can improve the mental health measures contained in it. This includes improving mental health representation on Integrated Care System (ICS) Boards and creating a statutory obligation for ICSs to report on how they are working towards improving parity of esteem between mental and physical health- this means treating mental health with equal importance to physical health. Parity of esteem is something I will be working hard to progress going forward.
We must have the courage to talk about mental health and ask for help if we need it. If we don’t, we won’t remove the stigma that sadly still exists and those who need help won’t get it. We talk about our physical health, so why not talk to our families, teachers, neighbours, GPs, colleagues, and others about these topics. A healthy mind is as important as a healthy body.
If you would like to book a surgery call about any topic or would like signposting to mental health support, please contact my office on 01626 368277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.