It amazes me to think that politicians once pledged to care for those who suffer from mental illness in Northern Ireland – as well in the UK. In manifestos, politicians and their parties pledged to increase funding in the mental health services – to allow for more services to become easily available to those in need of it. They pledged to do something to assist with the mental health crisis, which is flooding throughout the world.
Yet, the only news which I have seen – in Northern Ireland at least, is that the services have been further cut. To which extent? When the news came into the public, I must admit that I was unsurprised by the information which was presented. A reflection of how neglected the mental health services in Northern Ireland truly are. As well as the neglect of the UK for those suffering in England, Scotland and Wales.
However, by comparison; Northern Ireland is truly and well behind other first world countries (No surprise there), especially when it comes to offering services to help those in our society who are most in need.
In a recent report, it was found that Northern Ireland’s mental health targets are not being met. To further elaborate: it could be described as the following – those discovered cases, known to the doctors, or those who have recently gone to the doctors in order to speak about what they are suffering from, or how they feel – those people are being made known to the system, and yet – there isn’t enough sufficient help available in order to help treat these people, or to help them to be able to cope enough to be able to experience life.
I will also note, that this does not include those whom have been giving a misdiagnoses by the doctors – in the cases of symptoms not being admitted by the patient, or those whom the doctors have diagnosed with exhaustion or malnutrition, instead of the actual illness which they are suffering from.
In a recent report, it was found that NI needs, at least, another 160 full-time staff in order to even attempt to meet the targets which have been set, as well as for the growing demand for services. (Source one)
Why is there a growing demand? Has there been an increase in those with mental health issues? I should admit that some increase is possible, but it would not explain such a sharp increase. Obviously, due to factors of the modern century – cyber bullying now becoming an issue, as well as the pressures of modern life – governmental policies adding to these pressures (See my other blog post, when it is available, for reasons for possibly mental health issue increases in the modern century (I will link it when it’s done)), mental health issues appear to be on the raise. However, it should also be considered that new illnesses are being discovered, or old symptoms being investigated. With a slight decline in stigma (Not a significant decline, we still have to work on that as a society), more and more people seem to be speaking to their doctors, and officials about the issues and things they seem to be suffering from.
This would also explain the increased demand for psychological treatments – which do appear to help many of those who receive them. However, as with many things- with an increased demand, and a service which has not been funded and which has been ignored by those in the land which have the power to help it cope – this results in a longer waiting list as more people join the list to receive the help – which they so passionately need.
Do not blame the service itself, nor the doctors who refer you or someone you know. They would hardly have suffering if they had the resources and means to help everyone.
We must admit that the mental health service in Northern Ireland is underfunded and neglected. That mental health issues here seem to be something which people still don’t want to talk about. People prefer to hide from what they fear. In my experience, I was in denial for many years about what I was going through and so ignored mental health issues as a whole – as well as the service. I fear that many people will have done the same. They might avoid the truth of what they’re suffering through – deny it or hide from it. Others who do not suffer might simply prefer to hide because they fear the media’s portrayal of mental health issues. Or they prefer to ignore what doesn’t affect them. I cannot speak for everyone – or know everyone’s reasons, however, these are what, I think, might be some of the reasons.
The result of all of this, however, is a service which is ignored and shunned by the majority of society, and thus, ignored by the politicians and governments of the world. As ever, in a country which lives in the modern century, but is stuck in the 18th century mindset, this will be continued to be ignored until someone pulls their finger out and brings NI to the modern century to improve many things, including the mental health service.
So lets get onto some facts and figures to demonstrate my point.
“Figures from the Health and Social Care Board show there has been a steady rise in the numbers waiting for what are known as psychological therapies over the past five years.” (Source one)
As aforementioned, the waiting lists in NI seem to have increased very sharply over the last number of years. This could be due to more awareness of mental health issues, as well as other reasons. Nearly 1000 patients increase on a waiting list – a significant increase to when the study began.
With underfunding, the lack of staff must also be considered. As source one dictates, “currently, about 498 staff are employed in this area”. This area being the NI mental health services in being professionals of psychological treatment. One needs to consider that the population of NI is 1.811 millions (According to source two). If one in four people suffer from mental health issues in NI, then this seems to be like a lot of people who will need treatment from only a few members of staff (In comparison to other areas of medical study). I had broken it down to calculations and exactly how many, although they might be inaccurate, so I won’t post them until I can confirm them.
In NI, the amount of mental health cases amount to 25% higher than the rest of the UK. The governments budget for the trust has led to poor strategy due to lack of resources, thus it was reported that: “the strategy on providing psychological therapies was set out by the Department of Health in 2010 because arrangements at the time were described as “extremely poor”” (Source one). Even since these figures have been released, there has still been a lack of funding, which means hardly any improvement.
This lack of strategy is idiotic, as mental health issues are the number one causes of disability and lack of a healthy life in NI. In order to improve overall conditions in NI, the government should be tackling the biggest issues in NI, and tackling mental health issues would do many things. By doing so, people might be able to get their life back on track and be happier. Which has potential to improve the areas that people live in, it would also reduce suicide rates, as well as decrease bullying in school, neglect of others and oneself. As well as many other issues which are outstanding.
People need help, especially societies most vulnerability people. Lack of education on these issues, and media misinterpretation would only cause more issues.
Educational reform, and service funding will need to be considered. To be able to be aware of how one is suffering/feeling, one would cope better to know what they are suffering from. I feel that learning about different mental health issues in school would have helped me to get help sooner, and to feel more confident that others would be out there to help. That people understand. Education and awareness are key to the stepping stones of solving issues.
It should be noted, in source ones article, it is stated that “the Health Board’s own figures only 6% to 8% of their budget is spent on mental health and psychological therapy services”. The aim of the board was to have mental ailments treated as effectively and quickly as physical ailments. A serious reconsideration will need to be made into the budget to allow this to happen. Another worrying figure is that “the current funding gap for psychological therapies in Northern Ireland is about £12m when compared to the rest of the UK” (Source one).
I am not overestimating the importance in regards to mental health services, especially not to a system which is already in desperate need of funding, yet keeps receiving cuts. One person, Lord Crisp, in source ones article indicates his own surprise at the findings of the recent review of mental health care, as well as his opinion: “”I think we were really surprised at the level of priority that was given to mental health, what’s really important is to give the same level of priority of mental health as to physical health,” Lord Crisp said.”
This illustration from source one shows the statistics for mental health issues in the mass population in NI. Another point from source one would state that “according to the Public Health Agency there has been a 12% increase in the overall rate of people self-harming in Northern Ireland”. It might not seem like much, but in fact – this figure is staggering. That twelve percent is a lot more in a count of people than one would first assume. Another fearsome figure is that between 2015-2016, 16,300 people turned up at A&E seeking treatment for self-inflicted wounds. Although, I do not think this figure includes those that have gone to the hospital to seek treatment for the distress which they have been feeling. To seek help.
It seems that serious funding and a re-evaluation will need to be made into the mental health services in NI and the UK in general. Perhaps even across all of the countries of the world.
So what are the services like where you are? Do they have substantial funding and minimum stigma which allows the services to thrive to their full potential? To hope those in need? I would love to hear everyone’s views on it, whether that be in comment, or in PM.
I only hope, that one day, people will take mental issues as they take physical issues and will allow treatment to be equal to one another, or work alongside, like they should. However, a lot of work will need to be done before it’s at a standard where people won’t have to wait at least six months to see a specialist.