Written by Harmless CEO, Caroline Harroe.
Even with the great demand for mental health services, the government withdrew its much-awaited 10-year plan for tackling the crisis. Instead, it declared that it would be publishing a bigger strategy which would encompass long-term illnesses such as cancer as well as mental health, within a ‘Major Conditions Strategy’. During the past year, many people suffering from mental illness took part in the preparation of the plan to be released last week, which caused an uproar when the government unexpectedly changed their mind. Mental health organisations pointed out the connection between chronic illnesses and poor mental health, but they argued that the new policy may leave out children and young people, who are more likely to benefit from early action, but less likely to suffer from chronic diseases.
Last year, the government declared that they would provide £2.3 billion each year to support mental health, however, it is hard to determine if this is working or not, as the numbers of people with psychological issues are rising. Numerous individuals argue that the problem is due to the lack of resources allocated to mental health care, or the failure to tackle the source of the increasing demand, such as reforming adult and children’s social care. By announcing more consultations in the future, this latest action could result in pushing the solutions to the mental health crisis further away.
The Health Secretary, Stephen Barclay MP, expressed in a written announcement to Parliament that: “Enhancing support for the conditions that lead to people spending a greater amount of time in poor health is a great opportunity to enhance the lives of millions of people”. Although contemplating a more collective strategy to healthcare might be sensible, there is a risk that this will only prolong the resolution of the mental health crisis.
Meanwhile, with the announcement of the new suicide prevention strategy, suicide specific services gather in concern that this new strategy may become the place where mental health gets misinformedly placed.
Long term illness has a starting point, and concern remains over early identification and prevention of mental health problems within the current approach.