Mental health funding
I have said before that I am happy to see the prominence of mental health in general being higher in our society now than I think it has ever been. Even if some people may not know a lot about the specifics, the awareness of mental health as a whole seems to finally be noticeable in day-to-day life, just like people’s physical health is. I think there is still a way to go, but comparing it to twenty, or even ten years ago, there has definitely been a big improvement.
In 2010 it was reported in a survey by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) that nearly 1 in 5 people had consulted a counsellor or psychotherapist, while nearly 50% knew someone who had. The person writing these findings seemed proud to report that the stigma that has long been attached to such therapies was seemingly in the process of disappearing, especially since they had conducted a similar investigation six years before. To me, this is great to read. But fast-forward nine years and we are now at a point where there are too many people wanting counselling than there are the resources; the NHS waiting list is reported as being potentially between six months and two years, but the figure depends on the area of the country a person is in. Of course it may not always take as long as six months at all, but it seems that for thousands of people it does.
Whether this waiting time is due to an increase in demand or a reduction in services due to funding, or a mix of both, I’m not sure. However, last year it was reported that there had been a 65% increase in the demand for private counselling services because the lack of funding had made the NHS waiting lists too long, so it may be that if the funding is in place, any rise in demand could be met, but because it isn’t, it is not.
Funding in general has been cut in the UK in recent years, but even the police are now having to deal with the consequences of mental health funding cuts. Norfolk police recently stated that compared to 2014, they are now dealing with an extra 10,000 mental health incidences each year, 6,000 of which come through someone calling 999. They also state that they are filling in the gaps within mental health services that just don’t exist. This is shocking to hear; the police, who are there to protect every member of society, are needing to use their time to deal with incidents caused by people’s mental health rather than potentially catching criminals. Not only that, people who should be able to have access to mental health services are therefore unable to, which then means they end up in situations that could be completely unavoidable.
So we are finally living in a society where people are, on the whole, understanding the benefits of counselling and talking therapies, but we are now receiving less funding to deal with a higher demand. I really hope that the funding is sorted out as soon as possible because the consequences and the knock-on effects to other areas of society is just not acceptable.
Sarah Keeping MBPsS MSc PgDip GDip BA (Hons)
Follow Sarah on twitter at @keepingapproach