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How it took a global crisis to shine a light upon a drowning system

The mental health system and domestic violence have been thrust into the spotlight over the last year. During this crisis, it has highlighted how much we need to support not only each other, but the support staff, who are overstretched and underfunded - trying to help those in need. This is not news. This has been the fact of life for many, for multiple years.


At first glance the last published data on the NHS website for “Early Intervention in Psychosis Waiting Times” was in November 2019 which stated Nationally 150 referrals were waiting over 12 months. This was 2019, and we know since that point the demand for services have grown drastically with economic downfalls, technology increases (meaning cyber bulling has risen and younger generations are more susceptible to media influencer “standards” etc.) and now with Covid 19 and lockdown restrictions, more and more people are falling through the cracks. We have so much demand, and so little resources.


On further inspection there are more shocking statistics that are buried deeper. The information is hidden amongst medical jargon and spreadsheets rather than simple reports.


In September to November 2020 alone, there were 970,554 new referrals for mental health services in England by GPs.


At the end of October 2020, there were 1,358,959 people in contact with services; the majority of these (957,634) were in contact with adult mental health services.


There were 293,459 people in contact with children and young people’s mental health services and 150,990 in contact with learning disabilities and autism services. (* cited from https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/mental-health-services-monthly-statistics/performance-october-provisional-november-2020)



These are staggering numbers for a topic that still seems so blasé to most. We have “awareness” weeks/days/months for various mental health conditions. Yet, why when so many of us are affected by ill mental health, is this subject not a daily discussion? Why are those crying out for help shunned for being “attention seeking”, “difficult”, “miserable”?


So many of us have grown up in generations where you are told to pull yourself together, stop acting up and that you just need to get on with life as everyone has struggles. This has caused so much repression, depression and anxiety amongst us with fear of speaking out and seeming like a burden. Poor mental health impacts on individuals and their families, in lost income, lower educational attainment, quality of life and a much shorter life span.


Ill mental health is responsible for 72 million working days lost and costs £34.9 billion each year (Note: Different studies will estimate the cost of mental ill health in different ways. Other reputable research estimates this cost to be as high as £74–£99 billion) (* cited from https://mhfaengland.org/mhfa-centre/research-and-evaluation/mental-health-statistics/#statistics-packs ) and people with a long-term mental health condition lose their jobs every year at around double the rate of those without a mental health condition.


This equates to 300,000 people – the equivalent of the population of Newcastle or Belfast. Put into context like this, it’s hard to ignore the harsh reality that everyday people are facing. Now during such unprecedented times, how can we cast practically whole cities of people aside to the brink of financial ruin - who are already at a disadvantage and unsupported?


Why in times of crisis when so many are struggling, are we leaving them and their families to suffer?


We don’t see these numbers in the news, we are made to feel different and outcast and if we do bravely decide to seek help, we are either given medication and sent away, or put on endless waiting lists being passed around the services who cannot keep up with the demand. If these numbers were published and broadcast as readily as the highly controversial “Covid 19 Death Rate” then it may have a beneficial impact. Instead of constantly having death figures thrust at us causing further anxiety and fear, we would see the numbers of people struggling and realise those of us that are struggling are not alone.


We are not a small minority, and that if we found strength in the commonality of suffering we may be able to work together to make great change, and avoid further generations suffering needlessly within their own prison of thought.


The perception of mental health needs to change. Over a third of the public think people with a mental health issue are likely to be violent when in fact, people with severe mental illness are more likely to be the victims, rather than the perpetrators, of violent crime. This is evident in the number of victims of Domestic abuse who suffer with poor mental health – whether that was the case before the relationship that the perpetrator preyed on to manipulate the victim, or if it is a result of the violence and abuse the victim has suffered.


With this pandemic, the numbers for Domestic Violence have risen significantly as victims have been imprisoned with the national lockdowns and restrictions with their abusers.


The government have stated that you can be exempt from these rules if you are fleeing Domestic violence, yet offering no support for the victims to enable this? Evidently, they have no concept of the struggles someone would face leaving those cases in “normal” circumstances, let alone in times of financial hardship, unemployment, lack of childcare arrangements or support and absence of any affordable homes.


The police recorded 259,324 offences (excluding fraud) flagged as domestic abuse-related in the period March to June 2020 an 18% increase from 218,968 in 2018. Provisional data show there were 64 domestic homicides recorded by the police in England and Wales between January and June 2020, of which 30 occurred in the period April to June ( *cited from https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/domesticabuseduringthecoronaviruscovid19pandemicenglandandwales/november2020)


Now whilst these figures are awful they are not entirely reliable. There are so many variables that mean these numbers could be a severe understatement. Cases of this nature victims are highly unlikely to report for fear of the repercussions, police are still trying to improve their reporting and recording of cases of domestic violence as it is not a “crime” and many more circumstances and plain excuses that are the reasons victims never see justice or are even heard.


With such a brutal reality, anyone can see we are at the brink of total collapse. We need to spread constant awareness, acceptance and support for one another. We need to stand united. We need to be educated. We all need to care. This pandemic of the mind is affecting our colleagues, neighbours, loved ones and our children. We do not need to suffer in silence anymore.


We need change and this is why it is vital that whilst the system is failing people, training and education is vital.

 

©2021 by Joe Plumb. All Rights Reserved