Mental health charity Mind finds that nearly a quarter of people have not been able to access mental health services in the last two weeks
- Global experts have called on governments to act now and increase mental health support
- NHS urges people to come forward for help, advising mental health services remain open
- The mental health charity Mind has found that hundreds of people who have tried to access mental health support during lockdown have been unable to get the help they need
The charity spoke to more than 8,200 people about the toll that coronavirus is taking on their mental health. Almost a quarter of people who tried to access mental health support in the past fortnight had failed to get any help – facing cancelled appointments, difficulty getting through to their GP or Community Mental Health Team, being turned away by crisis services and issues accessing digital alternatives.
The figures come as global mental health experts warned that governments must take immediate action to increase mental health support, warning of a possible surge in the number of suicides. Evidence shows that when people do not get this support early enough, they are more likely to reach crisis point and need emergency help.
Respondents told Mind of the huge risk the situation poses to their mental health and their safety:
"My mental health has got worse because there is no help anywhere. I went to A&E suicidal and was told that there was nothing they could do. I contacted the crisis team and they said the same."
"I'm starting to suffer being alone, I've had less contact with my support team and no contact with my GP."
"I have schizoaffective disorder and have a fantastic support team. My Community Psychiatric Nurse, Support Worker and GP have all pulled out of my care. I can only access them on the phone for very short periods of time."
The NHS has urged the public to still come forward for help, amid concerns that seriously ill people are avoiding seeking support because of coronavirus. Mind found that almost half of those who didn't seek help for their mental health were worried their problems weren't important enough given the wider crisis, with others saying it was unclear whether it was safe or responsible to attend a face to face appointment.
Many are relying on organisations like Mind to get the help they urgently need – with 20% of those who have sought support turning to charities and community groups. Mind's services have seen unprecedented demand, with more than a million people accessing its online information on coronavirus and mental health, and a surge in the number of people seeking support through its online community since the crisis began.
Responding to the findings, Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
"As a nation, a vast number of us have seen our mental health deteriorate during the coronavirus crisis. It is therefore deeply concerning that people are struggling to get the help that they urgently need. Evidence shows that when people do not get support early enough, they end up in crisis.
"People with mental health problems have been hit hard by the current situation. We are particularly worried that some people are being discharged too early from hospital, while others have been left languishing on mental health wards, because of the current limited the availability of community support. Being sent home at the wrong time can delay recovery and, at worst, puts people at high risk of suicide.
"A drop in the number of referrals to NHS mental health services, including those for children, is worrying when we know the need is high. It has never been more important that people are encouraged to access mental healthcare that is timely, appropriate and available at the point of need. If not, we are storing up more complex problems for the future.
"We will closely follow the measures the NHS is taking, ensuring that resource is spread appropriately, and strive to support people through our own services as best we can. The coronavirus pandemic is not just a physical health emergency. People with mental health problems must not be forgotten."
We need your help to support people with mental health problems right now. To donate to Mind's emergency appeal, visit www.mind.org.uk/donate
Notes to Editors:
- Mind is surveying adults about the impact of coronavirus on mental health. At the time of publication, the survey had 8,943 responses (some uncompleted). 5,565 respondents had direct experience of mental health problems and 3,895 use or have used mental health services. You can respond to the survey here.
- So far, the survey has predominantly been promoted using Mind's existing channels and therefore the sample is not representative of the general population and includes a higher representation of people with experience of mental health problems'
- A fifth of those surveyed said they had tried to access mental health services in the last two weeks. Almost a quarter of these people had been unable to access services.
- Difficulty getting in contact with GP or Community Mental Health Team (24%), feeling unable or uncomfortable using phone or video call technology (22%) and appointments being cancelled (22%), are the three main difficulties people have experienced in accessing support over the last two weeks.
- 12% of respondents said they weren't sure if it was safe or responsible to attend an appointment in person.
- When people did not seek help, 41% said it was because they did not think their issues were important enough
- Of those who accessed support, 49% did so through the NHS. 27% accessed support through a private provider and 16% through charities. 4% accessed support through community support groups 4% or their workplace - 7%.
- 42 researchers from around the world, who form the International COVID-19 Suicide Prevention Research Collaboration, wrote in The Lancet Psychiatry, that an increase in suicides is not inevitable - provided preventive action is taken imminently. https://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2020/april/covid-suicide-risk.html, April 21, 2020 (link to this external content from Bristol.ac.uk has expired)
- https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/25/england-campaign-targets-seriously-ill-patients-avoiding-hospitals?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other, April 25, 2020
- The Costs of Mental Ill Health, National Mental Health Development Unit, 2010