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Covid 19 is having a significant effect on our mental as well as our psychical health with recent studies showing that as much as half of people in the UK have been experiencing high levels of anxiety during the pandemic. On May 28th in an attempt to combat growing mental health concerns the government released an additional £4.2m of funding as part of a £750 million package for the voluntary sector for mental health charities including Samaritans, Young minds, Bipolar UK. This comes on top of the £5 million already pledged at the start of mental health awareness week in the UK. Nevertheless, mental health experts warn of a mental health crisis.
‘Before the pandemic, young people’s mental health was beginning to get the attention and resourcing it needs – but, despite improvements, services were often overstretched and
inconsistent across the country. With demand likely to increase, we cannot afford to lose momentum.’
‘While mental health professionals deserve enormous credit for responding to the challenges the pandemic brings, many young people who were receiving some form of mental health treatment before the crisis are now receiving reduced support or no support at all.’ – British Psychological Society
The British Medical Society urged to government to ensure that clear routes are available for young people to access NHS mental health services while social distancing restrictions are in place. This is crucial in light of recent findings by the charity mind that a quarter of people who tried to access mental health services remotely in the last two weeks have been unable to do so.
‘24% had difficulty getting in contact with GP or community mental health team, 22% felt unable or uncomfortable using phone or video call technology and 22% reported appointments being cancelled.’ – Mind
Psychiatrists report many people with mental health have had their symptoms worsen during the pandemic meanwhile mental health services and charities are also seeing an increase in calls from people who have never previously needed support. The pandemic has dramatically altered life as we know it with the social distancing restrictions needed to slow the spread of coronavirus leaving people feeling isolated and anxious, moreover the effect of the virus on the economy have led to over one in three people expecting financial position of their household to worsen over the next 12 months. As a result of this the office for national statistics has found that over a third of people in the UK are experiencing high levels of anxiety.
“We are already seeing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on mental health with more people in crisis. But we are just as worried about the people who need help now but aren’t getting it. Our fear is that the lockdown is storing up problems which could then lead to a tsunami of referrals” – Royal College of Psychiatrists
While the BPS welcome government funding it is clear that continued funding is needed to ensure that the mental health services can meet the rising demand. An underlying issue is the need for more mental health professionals with a report from the British medical society warning that improvements in the mental health implementation plan including the increases of 600 psychiatrists, 4,000 nurses, 8,000 psychologists, psychotherapists and psychological professions, 5,000 support workers and 600 social workers may be at risk of becoming unachievable. The wait times for talk therapies in the UK currently vary dramatically with the average time to start therapy from 4 days in Basildon & Brentwood to 61 days in Manchester. However, there is often a long wait on average of 10 weeks from the first to the second appointment.