Last week in a shock intervention a high court judge warned that there would be "blood on our hands" if authorities could not provide suitable mental health care to a patient known as girl X. Today the lawyer in the case has spoken of the 'sad reality' that it took the 'stark words' of the judge to resolve the matter. The patient, Girl X, is due to be moved to a specialist unit on Thursday.
The case has sparked a debate on mental health care in the UK, particularly for children and young people. Sir James Munby condemned the six-month waiting list for beds and described 'disgraceful and utterly shaming lack of proper provision' of support for vulnerable patients. To suggest this is a one off case would be inherently naive.
The reality of mental health care in the UK at the moment is that it is in crisis. Despite an increase in demand for services, more than half of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) planned to cut their mental health budgets last year. It is common knowledge that the NHS is under increasing financial pressures and government are planning to target fourteen areas across England which will face yet another round of NHS cuts.
Last year a leaked report from a government task force revealed that the number of people dying by suicide is rapidly increasing, that three-quarters of individuals with psychiatric conditions are not receiving support and that children are being sent almost anywhere in the country for treatment. I have personally felt the impact of the cuts over the last seven years witnessing a distinct increase in waiting lists and glass ceilings in care.
It took many complaints, desperate emails and miserable doctors appointments just to have my medication reviewed by a psychiatrist; it tuned out to be a life changing and life-saving 30 minutes which changed everything for me. That review was something I had been asking for and consistently denied for over a year despite being stuck on a medication that wasn't working and with no plan for progress.
I have been suicidal and faced intrusive and painful thoughts, and while I was lucky not take any action. It was only through holding on with every ounce of strength that I am here writing this today. But the help I was seeking in my most desperate moments wasn't there. I found myself pushed out of A&E with a leaflet on two occasions within two weeks at one of my lowest times.
I fear that there is a huge section of society that can't afford a lawyer to argue their case. Ultimately when you're facing depression or another mental illness, it can be incredibly difficult to get out of bed and make it to your GP appointment on time, never mind complain, stand up for yourself and hold people to account.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Rethink Mental Illness advice and information service is open 9:30 - 4pm Monday - Friday - 0300 5000 927. They have over 100 factsheets with easy to understand information on a variety of issues related to mental health
- CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a registered charity, which exists to prevent male suicide in the UK. Call 0800 58 58 58 or visit thecalmzone.net
- The Mix is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41