Would Online Therapy Help Us Cope With the Current Mental Health Crisis

06/07/2016 15:46 | Updated 06 July 2016

The recent cross-party inquiry by MPs into the funding of mental health services, and the separate YouGov poll commissioned and crowd funded by campaigning organisation 38 Degrees, paints a bleak picture of the public's perception of England's mental health care.

The poll found that 74% of voters believe funding for mental health should be greater or equal to funding for physical health - which comes as no surprise given that just 11.9% of overall NHS budget was spent on mental health last year, despite government pledges to establish parity.

Suicide in England is on the rise with 4,477 people killing themselves in an average year. Three-quarters of those with psychiatric conditions are not being helped. Children and adolescent mental health services are in crisis. International conflicts are being fought on many fronts. And even though the government has committed £1bn extra a year by 2020 - is it enough?

I was inspired to study and train as a counsellor as someone whose life has been greatly improved through counselling. It helped me overcome my depression and get my life back on track after losing my way in life.

It was only after I volunteered for Crisis at Christmas that I became aware of the number of service men and women who had left the military and, as a result of mental trauma, become homeless.

That is why I took up my role as patron for the new military mental health charity, Stand Down, which provides free, confidential, online counselling to serving personnel, veterans and family members suffering from mental health issues.

Believed to be the 'first of its kind' in the UK, the charity's online therapy is supported by research from the University of Zurich which found in a study in 2013 that online therapy is just as effective as the traditional face-to-face therapy. It is important that we have choice in this world and when it comes to mental health I do believe that online counselling reaches out to people who may not otherwise give themselves the option of the much needed support.

The charity's counselling sessions are held via the online therapy platform, Plus Guidance. This enables Stand Down to offer immediate help and support to service users, which is easily-accessible from the comfort and security of their own home. It also encourages those who would otherwise find it difficult to attend therapy, such as the physically injured, those with young families and active duty personnel, reluctant to approach their employer to seek help.

We live in a world where technological advancements are shaping our future - and online counselling from charities like Stand Down may significantly help us to cope with the mental health crises we currently face.

Bravery comes in many forms. We need to be brave enough to admit that some battle wounds are the invisible ones we carry every day, brave enough to seek help and no longer suffer in silence, brave enough to admit that more needs to be done in terms of NHS mental health funding, or brave enough to lead the way in research and technology for future therapies.