The invisible illness: What is being done to treat mental health problems?

PICTURE POSED BY MODEL A woman showing signs of depression.

A study by NHS Digital has shown that mental health problems are becoming a major issue for people living in England with one in six people suffering from some form of the illness, and young people being particularly vulnerable.

In the last decade, there has been a steady increase in the number of people reporting problems, but what are the main reasons for this?

A practitioner and teacher of psychotherapy from the region, who asked not to be named, advised there are a multitude of reasons why mental health issues are on the rise, whether social, economic or political.

They said: “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these problems have been increasing for the last decade – nearly 10 years on from the financial crash. A lot of people have suffered financially since then, and people on low income or benefits are increasingly feeling victimised, being told that the financial crisis was their fault.

“Mental health doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You look at the nature of politics over the last few years, more and more people, who were previously in the middle are being pushed to one extreme or the other. There’s a large amount of hostility involved now.

According to the study, one in five women aged between 16 and 24 have reported a common mental illness, compared to one in eight men.

“Mental health problems are especially common in young people,” the practicioner added. “Nearly half of all mental illnesses develop by the time someone is 16, and three-quarters develop by the time someone is 24.”

There are many theories for this – other than the aforementioned economic and political issues – such as social media and cyber-bullying, which are becoming more of a concern, according to the psychotherapist.

“It’s hard not to notice the increase in bully tactics on social media, from trolling to organised campaigns of harassment. I’ve even seen children, 10 and under, developing problems because of this.

“Social media has become a staple of our lives over the last decade, particularly for young people, but I think that more needs to be done to educate people on the problems that it poses and how to use it responsibly.

“As far as funding goes, mental health has always been the poor relation to physical health. Under Tony Blair, for example, GPs regularly received pay rises and increased funding, while mental health was left behind. We’re starting to see the effects of that now, and if we’re to combat this there needs to be more funding to mental health services.”

And while mental health cases are on the increase, promisingly it seems that more people are starting to talk openly about mental health. Over the last few years, several campaigns have been launched by charities and public figures – such as Time to Change, launched by Mind and Rethink in 2009, and Heads Together, launched by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – have helped to start to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health. In addition, with the Government pledging more funding to mental health services in the NHS, it seems that things might be starting to improve. But the most important thing now, according to the psychotherapist, is to ensure that people continue talking about mental health: “Often issues like this are just seen as a fad, and people stop talking about them once something else comes along. But mental health is a big issue for so many people, and It’s important that we continue to talk about this so that more people can receive the help they need.”

Anyone who feels like they need help can visit the NHS page on mental health at http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Mentalhealthhome.aspx

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