A series of reports from various government agencies over the last few years have begun explicitly referring to the situation regarding our nation’s mental health as ‘a crisis’ for the first time.
Concerns about the quality of, and access to, mental health care has been an issue for some time, although one that successive governments have largely ignored until recently.
With rates of mental health problems on the rise and a brighter light than ever being shone on the issue, increased public awareness is now finally driving the impetus for change.
Responding effectively to the challenges posed by rising rates of mental illness will require a multi-faceted approach that recognizes the nuances of both the illnesses themselves, as well as many of the preferred treatment protocols.
The Private Sector
For some time, the slack created by inefficiencies in the way the NHS responds to mental health issues has been picked up by various charities, private organizations, and publicly subsidized care services. These are not necessarily bad or even worse choices when the quality of care is compared to the NHS. In fact, by many metrics, these non-governmental health care providers are performing as well or better than the NHS.
Many of those who complete university level degrees in counseling and psychology opt to practice outside the NHS for financial reasons, but also because some disagree with the NHS preferred treatment protocols. The rise of online degrees (and the online masters in counseling in particular) have led to a new generation of counselors who are unbound by medical orthodoxy and who may provide a unique approach that is better suited to some patients.
Of course, the NHS guidelines are based on evidence and experience, and just as a Freelance counselor who has completed a masters in counseling online may be seen as more vulnerable to marketing and incentive programs offered by marketers representing drug companies, they may also bring with them a different approach to caregiving. Mental health problems, unlike most physical diseases, cannot be treated the same way in everyone, with certain individuals being more or less receptive to the various methods usually employed.
The NHS is the United Kingdom’s first and best defense against the proliferation of mental illness. It is very difficult to talk about the how the NHS performs in one particular area without giving some consideration to the bigger picture, to do so overlooks many of the complexities which the NHS must factor into its decisions when it comes to providing services. What seems beyond doubt is that mental health facilities under the NHS are in need of a significant funding boost. This is true for all forms of care, not just mental health. As with the rest of our society and public institutions, the NHS now understand mental health issues and their impact on individuals and society much better than we used to and standards of care, when available, have consequently risen.
As A Society
One of the biggest barriers to further improving mental health care is ensuring that the public has a better understanding of what mental illness and mental health care look like outside of entertainment such as film and TV, which gives some people an unrealistic image of what it is like for sufferers.
If we are to ensure that mental health issues are not debilitating and do not significantly reduce the quality of life, we must strive for a better public understanding.