1 in 6 adults seek mental health services in England – a number that has been rising steadily since the early 2000s and leaped since the beginning of lockdown, yet as many as 75% of people with diagnosable mental illness receive no treatment. While mental health problems amount to 23% of ill health and disability cases in England, only 11% of the NHS budget is dedicated to mental health. This averages to under £200 per year per person. These figures, however, vary largely across the country.
Covid pushed charities like Focus Counselling to capacity, creating a new gap in mental healthcare
The waiting times for access to talking therapies can be as low as 4 days in Basildon, and as high as 61 days in Manchester, which also reported the second highest number of people in contact with mental health and learning disability services in 2018/19. The range of talking therapies, however is narrow. Jan Robertson, director of Focus Counselling in Bath, says that as the demand for these services increases, so do the waiting lists. At the same time, more and more talking therapies move to group sessions, which many people cannot attend. Jan also mentions that while most of these services are for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, studies have shown that this treatment is not as effective as previously thought and less than 60% of patients move into recovery after it. Covid pushed charities like Focus Counselling to capacity, creating a new gap in mental healthcare.
It’s no mystery that poverty and mental health are linked. Some of the nation’s poorest areas see some of the highest numbers of people seeking help for mental health, while having the lowest recovery rates and the longest waiting times. Blackpool, which suffers from some of the lowest employment and highest poverty rates in England, also reports the second highest number of adults saying they have a mental health problem.
People with mental health issues lose their jobs at twice the rate as those without
Mental health and unemployment run in a vicious cycle. Every year, people with mental health issues lose their jobs at twice the rate as those without, with an estimated 300,000 people losing employment annually. 72 million working days are lost every year due to mental health issues, the most pertinent of which are anxiety and depression. Work and money-related stress exacerbates these conditions.
Jan Robertson says that individuals between the ages of 16 and 23 have been hit especially hard by Covid. Young people face a particularly difficult future in a world where work and money are scarce, and are the second largest age group who seek mental health services.
Mental health charities are doing vital work, often as the first port of call for individuals seeking help before they turn to the NHS
Jan Robertson mentions that mental health charities are doing vital work, often as the first port of call for individuals seeking help before they turn to the NHS. Current waiting lists for treatment can be longer than six months and NHS healthcare pathways are often too overwhelming to navigate for people who need them. Focus Counselling treats individuals so that they don’t have to seek NHS mental healthcare, proving just how vital organisations like theirs are in preventing mental health crises and treating symptoms before they require often traumatic medical intervention.
So why do maps matter when we talk about mental health? One of the crucial factors of mental healthcare is access, however many people either lack local services or don’t know where or how to find the help they need. In order to improve services, we must first understand where and what improvements are needed. Our aim is not only to map gaps in vital healthcare access, but to give individuals accessible information about where and how to find the help they need.
The growing mental healthcare crisis requires a holistic approach across a wide range of services
By overlaying maps of larger social factors such as employment and education, MapAid highlights the connections between mental healthcare services and their demand, demonstrating that the growing mental healthcare crisis requires a holistic approach across a wide range of services. Our society is a living organism of many complex yet often invisible parts; our maps shed light on how these parts connect, and how these connections can be fostered for meaningful, lasting positive change.