Around 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health issue this year. It’s therefore not surprising that two thirds of the Healthwatch network have found that their communities want to see improvements to mental health support.
1. Lack of mental health awareness and early intervention
People don’t always get the help they need early enough. There are indications that some GPs lack awareness of mental health issues, find it difficult to spot the signs consistently, and don’t always know where to refer patients for support. Without early intervention, there’s a risk that patients won’t get the right diagnosis, treatment and access to support services that can help prevent them having a crisis.
To help people get the support they need, it's vital that they have access to clear information about what is available and that stigma regarding mental health is eliminated.
2. Difficulty accessing effective and appropriate mental health support
In some areas of the country, children and young people wait as long as five years for initial assessments and diagnoses. Young people and their families have told local Healthwatch about the impact delays getting support can have on their lives at home and school.
Adults told local Healthwatch that they can also face delays accessing mental health support - in some cases up to two years - which leave them feeling vulnerable.
“I have been waiting for an official diagnosis of my Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder for around three years. It took me over a year of waiting to get a referral to the autism team and then long waiting lists for assessment. I am finally nearly there now but the fight has been exhausting. Someone with significant mental health issues and neurological impairments shouldn't have to battle against the system that is so ill-equipped to serve them.”
Patient story shared with Healthwatch Northamptonshire
3. Not receiving continuous or consistent care
People accessing mental health services told local Healthwatch that they don’t always receive continuous and consistent care. Not getting to see the same health professional can be frustrating as people are often asked to repeat their medical history and less time is spent discussing diagnosis or treatment. People also feel left out of important decisions about the future of their mental health care. They want professionals to involve them in discussions and to be taken seriously.
4. Accessing care in a crisis can be a challenge
People and their families are concerned that mental health support is only available when they reach a crisis point and that, even at this critical stage, care can be inconsistent. Across services, some practitioners don’t have a clear understanding of how to support people in a crisis effectively. We have also heard that crisis care teams don’t always show up when they’re needed and are not available at all in certain areas.