With the second wave of Covid-19 upon us, and pressure on NHS services increasing, it is vital we build on lessons from earlier in the year to make sure that people with mental health problems get support. In England, many people haven’t been able to access services since the start of the pandemic. Local community health services, which play a vital role in helping people stay well and out of hospital, were closed or reduced, and referral numbers dropped. This meant more people reached crisis point. We need urgent investment in community services to make sure that people are supported before they reach this stage. The pressure on our already overstretched services is only going to increase, and extra investment is more critical than ever. This includes ensuring that people can access mental health services in a way that works best for them, whether that’s digitally or face to face.
The pandemic has affected different sections of society in different ways. Coronavirus has had a disproportionate impact on people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. The mental health impacts will be similarly disproportionate. People from these communities have long faced inequalities in the mental health support they receive, and the UK Government must now prioritise urgent reforms aimed at improving their experiences. In England, the UK Government must provide a bespoke package of support for those groups at most risk of developing mental health problems, including people from Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic communities, frontline workers, people recovering from hospitalisation as a result of coronavirus, and those who have been bereaved.
Our Head of Equality Improvement, Marcel Vige, explores in his blog how race forms part of the history of mental health.
Marcel explains how its dark past still has ramifications in people’s outcomes and treatment today, and what needs to happen to create effective change.
More than half of us being treated in hospital for mental health problems are sectioned. This means being treated against your will under the Mental Health Act. Being sectioned is one of the most traumatic things that can happen to someone. The Act is outdated and discriminatory – Black people are four times more likely to be sectioned and three times more likely to be restrained or held in isolation. Because many mental health hospitals were ill-equipped to control the spread of coronavirus, twice as many people sectioned in England died between 1 March and 1 May 2020 compared with 2019, with half dying from coronavirus. The UK Government must act now and reform the Act to protect the rights, dignity and safety of everyone detained in hospital.
Black men are four times more likely to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act and three times more likely to be restrained or held in isolation while in hospital.
Colin shares his experience of being sectioned and how it's impacted him and why he thinks the system needs to change.
The impact of a health crisis goes far beyond health services. Many of us are worrying about finances and jobs and wondering how we will pay housing costs and put food on the table. This will have a huge impact on our mental health now and well into the future. With a slowing economy, benefit claims soaring and unemployment set to rise, we need to see the UK Government doing all it can to protect people with mental health problems from falling into poverty. In order to do this, we must look at rebuilding the disability benefits system so that people can get the right help without having to repeatedly go through traumatic medical assessments that make them feel like a tick box rather than a human.
Everything that’s happened over the last year has shown us just how important it is to have a compassionate benefits system that’s there when we need it. But for hundreds of thousands of people with mental health problems, trying to get support from benefits has turned into a maze that we can’t escape from.
Anna blogs about how when she applied for PIP her mental health was not taken into consideration and why we need to build a better benefits system
When schools closed and normal support services were less accessible, children and young people with mental health problems not only missed out on their education, but also on the support that helps them to stay well. Before coronavirus, young people with a mental health problem were already being left behind by our education system. Mental health stigma has caused nearly one in five young people to drop out of education and children and young people with a mental health problem are more likely to be excluded from school. Through our education enquiry we are working with young people, parents and teachers so we can understand what needs to change. We will share our findings with UK Government and we are asking that they put in place a plan to support young people's wellbeing, alongside their education.
I really need a hug. I feel so lonely, and feel like this is going to put my agoraphobia progression back. It makes me feel like giving up. I am fighting so hard not to.
Those in power can make the right choices make sure the society that comes after the pandemic is kinder, fairer and safer. Help us call on the UK government to make sure mental health is at the heart of the new normal - campaign with us. If you'd like more information about the five tests, get in touch with us at [email protected].