When it comes to mental health, I’m afraid to say we are still stuck deep in the Middle Ages. What gets to me the most about how health professionals approach mental health is that many view it as a separate problem from physical health. And anyone suffering with a mental health condition will tell you that your state of mind can heavily affect your physical health… and vice versa.
I can also tell you from personal experience that getting the right mental health support when you need it most can be extremely difficult and if you happen to fall in the hands of an unsympathetic doctor there is great potential for being treated with prejudice.
But it’s not just a lack of support and understanding that affects those suffering with mental health issues. A recent news article exposed widespread abuse of mental health patients at the hands of medical professionals.
The figures obtained by The Times newspaper showed that in the last year more than 5,000 serious incidents involving both children and adults were investigated. Of these, more than a thousand complaints related to care, including delays and use of medications.
I’m not the strongest advocate of pharmaceutical drugs, however when it comes to mental health, I believe that when measures like talk therapy show no improvement short-term pharmaceutical interventions are often the only way to help patients get back on track.
A lack of sufficient mental health support services and withholding medication patients can cause serious setbacks in mental health recovery… and in some cases can have fatal consequences. As the investigation by The Times showed, of the 5,000 incidents investigated many included hundreds of suicides, dozens of killings, more than 2,000 cases of self-harm and even deaths of children.
Perhaps the most concerning matter is that record levels of violence and abuse against vulnerable patients at mental health trusts have been reported in the past year. Commenting on this, former Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb said: “The use of physical force is endemic in the system. Abuse of patients, on the face of it, can be characterised as gross misconduct. The system is under an impossible strain and it shows that we’re not providing enough resources to good, preventive care.”
According to the mental health charity, Sane, at least one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem every year. And in the first official estimate of its kind, the children’s commissioner for England has said that more than 800,000 children have mental health problems.
These are worrying facts and figures and my suspicion is that the problem will only get worse until medical professionals and health care providers end the deeply engrained stigma around mental health within the medical industry.
If you need mental health support or feel at a loss because you don’t know how to access services, visit the websites of the following two mental health charities:
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NHS abuse of mental patients ‘endemic’, published online 07.08.17, thetimes.co.uk