13/11/2012 12:13 GMT | Updated 13/01/2013 05:12 GMT

Why the Government is Failing on Mental Health

Although working as a psychotherapist in private practice can be challenging, I am in no doubt that my colleagues in the NHS work under far, far greater pressure - and, because of this government's ideologically-driven, shockingly severe cuts programme, that pressure is constantly increasing. Even worse than this is the way we, as a society, treat those suffering from mental health problems, especially people at the more severe end of the spectrum.

People frequently come to me saying their GP has recommended cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) but that there would be up to a year's wait for CBT on the NHS. If you are severely depressed, for example, waiting a year for help would feel like an eternity. You may also be suicidal, so that wait would not only be crushingly long, but also potentially life-threatening.

It's excellent that, thanks to the previous Labour government, the IAPT (Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies) programme is currently training up thousands of CBT therapists, so this wait should come down in many parts of the UK. But at workshops and training days I am constantly meeting dedicated, hard-working clinical psychologists, occupational therapists and psychiatrists - the people at the sharp end in the NHS, dealing with some of the most vulnerable and disturbed members of our society - who tell me their service is currently being cut by up to 30% (as reported in this Independent story about nurses facing the axe).

Think about that - imagine your company had its staff and resources slashed by a third. Imagine the massive increase in pressure and working hours; the devastating effect on morale; and the inevitable deterioration in the quality of your services. That's what people in all sectors of the NHS, not just those working in mental health, are currently facing.

But, as someone who is passionate about de-stigmatising and changing attitudes to mental health, I am especially frustrated that people with common problems like depression or anxiety disorders; or more serious difficulties such as eating disorders, OCD, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder so often go untreated. If they do receive treatment, it's often of the pharmacological variety, as hard-pressed GPs massively over-prescribe antidepressants because they know there is little else available.

I think that, as a society, the shocking level of treatment for some of our most vulnerable members should make us all angry - and that this anger should propel us all to take action, in whatever way we see fit, until we remedy this deplorable situation.

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