Cuts to mental health services must be reversed

Recent cuts made to mental health services are preventing those suffering with depression and other mental health illnesses from getting help

Last week tributes flooded in for Robin Williams who had been found dead in his apartment. An actor whose work had spanned across the generations, he was known for the comic value he added and his heart-warming tales. His death revealed he was depressed, and had been for a long time.

The death of Robin Williams has highlighted to many the extent of mental health illnesses. Despite an increasing awareness of them, the budget allotted to help treat patients, has decreased.

More than half of local councils have reportedly had their budgets for children and adolescent mental health services, cut or frozen. In 2013 it was reported that mental health services had undergone a 2% cut to their budgets in real terms. With few services provided, the cuts made by the government to mental health services are lethal.

The stigma surrounding illnesses such as depression, mean that the help required is not reaching the right people. And now, with fewer services provided, they are less likely to receive help desperately needed.

The most shocking cut came from Birmingham city council. In 2010-11, just over £2.3m was allocated for mental health service, but in 2014-15, this has been reduced to £125,000, a decrease of 94%.

The royal college of psychiatrists have warned that mental health services are near breaking point.

Depression is an illness, and recent unfortunate events have shown, it can kill just as easily as any other deadly disease. However it is not incurable. Many who have used anti-depressants or counselling services have made full recoveries.

Which is why the cuts to mental health services, already at breaking point, are such a travesty.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, one form of treatment for depression that can be used to alter the way a sufferer approaches their illnesses. It is often used as an alternative to medication, such as anti-depressants. Currently in County Durham, you can expect to wait three weeks for an initial consultation, and then longer before actual treatment begins. In other areas the wait is longer.

While this wait may not seem disastrously long, for sufferers, it can be impossibly difficult. When each day is filled with despair, being forced to wait months to start treatment is an extra burden that, with extra funding, can prevent avoidable fatalities.

Recent reports suggest that there has been an increase in mental health illnesses. This may be down to an increased awareness of the illnesses and therefore an increase in those who are seeking medical help and diagnosis. This greater awareness should be celebrated as it suggests an acceptance of these illnesses.

However it should also be cause for action. We know that huge numbers are suffering, we know the extent of the illness and the devastation it can cause, and we know that currently, the health services provided are not enough.

If the current social situation is causing a higher level of mental health sickness, it is necessary for responsibility for this increase to be taken. Cutting services does a disservice to the rising number of sufferers and, instead, services must be increased and improved to prevent further suffering.