What was once a taboo subject is now the stuff of commercials and celebrity confessions. Today, stars are lining up to discuss their mental health issues in public. Sheridan Smith and Simon Pegg are two high-profile names who have recently shared their problems, and recounted how they sought help from friends and professionals.
A Lloyds Bank television advert raising awareness of different mental health problems, featuring the likes of Countdown’s Rachel Riley, Olympian Victoria Pendleton, rapper Professor Green and journalist Jeremy Paxman, marked the crossing of another rubicon.
But raising awareness about a problem that one in four of us will experience during our lives is one thing – treating it another. Stung by criticism that for decades mental health has been a Cinderella service, in 2014 the NHS launched its Five Year Forward View plan which has seen overall mental health funding increase by £1.4 billion in real terms compared with three years ago.
An additional 120,000 people are now receiving specialist mental health treatment. There has also been a significant increase in “talking” therapies: 60,000 more people will get treatments for common mental health conditions by the end of this year, the NHS claims.
But there is a long way to go.
As the Observer reports today, in England there has been a near 30% decline over the last decade in the number of available “mental illness beds” overseen by a consultant. “It’s always worrying to see such a dramatic drop-off in beds in mental health units,” said Mark Winstanley, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness. “When people can’t get a bed they end up stuck in A&E or sent miles from home for treatment. They tell us that this makes an already difficult time even more distressing.”
In 2015 the King’s Fund warned: “A lack of available beds is…
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