Mental health patients in England have had to overcome barriers to receive care. Vanessa Martin went to A&£ and waited for hours while Alex Cartwright had to overcome feeling like he didn’t deserve help.
Vanessa Martin has had depression and severe anxiety since she was a teen. She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in October 2016.
Vanessa wanted to commit suicide and didn’t know what help was available in December of 2015.
In a time of crisis, she went to A&E and “sat there for hours” until someone saw her.
“I’ve been in crisis… with tablets in my hand thinking about committing suicide”
“I appreciate that obviously it’s not an emergency in that I wasn’t going to bleed to death but equally if I hadn’t have had the courage to do that I could have just taken an overdose and the help wasn’t there.”
She has since been assigned to a crisis team but still has to wait for care at times.
“I’ve phoned my crisis team in the past and somebody said they’d get back to me and it’s actually been hours before they got back to me and again.”
Vanessa expressed an understanding of the NHS’ budget constraints but points out there are still times her and others are in need.
Audio: Vanessa Martin on visiting A&E during a mental health crisis
“I appreciate the NHS it’s always difficult because of funding what have you but I’ve been in crisis… with tablets in my hand thinking about committing suicide and… looking back that’s quite urgent… I’m sure other people have been in similar positions.”
Vanessa has received treatment and worked hard and is “back to herself.” She credits this to her GP, the NHS, and her private therapist.
“I feel like myself again and I’m just happy again. I’ve just got my identity back.”
She also adds that in addition to receiving help from others, it took a lot of work on her part.
“The big thing for me was that even though I did get help from other people I had to work really hard myself and that was really key and it’s really difficult but I wanted to get better and I had to constantly work hard to make myself better.”
When talking about how others can push through struggles, she emphasised working each day.
“I’m not saying you’re always wanna get up and fight, but just a little bit each day.”
While Vanessa didn’t receive care right away because of resources and staff availability, Alex Cartwright had other barriers to overcome.
Alex said that he felt he felt like he didn’t deserve help for his depression and at one point said “what’s the point of asking for help, no one is going to help me.”
Video: Alex Cartwright on when he felt he didn’t deserve help
Despite this feeling, he did seek care and now feels he is “better overall” than he was before he first went to a doctor.
Patients not receiving mental health care has been identified as an issue by the NHS.
The NHS put goals in place to lower waiting times for mental health care in England by 2020. On average their targets are being met but some patients still have to wait to receive care.
The Joint Commissioning Panel for Mental Health reported that “mental health accounts for around five per cent of A&E attendance.”
The NHS lists going to A&E as an option for a mental health crisis but not all hospitals have specialists available.
NHS England has set a goal to have psychiatric liaison teams available at all acute hospitals by 2020.
In addition to helping patients with a combination of physical and mental health issues, these teams are assigned to helping emergency mental health care patients.
These goals came as a result of a study in 2013 which revealed that over half of mental health patients had to wait over three months to receive care.
The NHS and Department of Health released a document outlining goals in 2014 to lower these figures by 2020 and how funding and resources would be used to achieve these goals.
Over ninety per cent of patients waited under six weeks to receive mental health by July 2016.
While averages are down, individual cases still have to wait longer than the allotted time to receive care.
12% of people with mental health problems were on waiting lists for over a year and 54% waited over three months in 2013
The NHS and Department of Health set goals in 2014 including treating 95% of adult mental health patients within eighteen weeks
The number of patients who waited for treatment for under six weeks went from 80% to over 95% Between January 2015 and July 2016
£30 is being invested in psychiatric liaison teams which treat emergency mental health cases, often at hospitals
NHS England’s goal is to have psychiatric liaison teams at all acute hospitals by 2020