Danny Bowman is Student Ambassador at the Conservative Education Society, and is Head of Campaigns and former Director of Mental Health at Parliament Street.
The research showed that the number of people requiring assistance and information about common mental health disorders such as anxiety, PTSD and OCD has increased by between 199 per cent and 703 per cent since the pandemic began. The rising trend of mental distress across Britain must compel all of us to act – including the Minister in charge of mental health.
However, Nadine Dorries, the Minister in question, had claimed that there is no crisis. She is wrong. There is a crisis – and the evidence is overwhelming.
So why did she say there isn’t one? Simple. She said the test for a mental health crisis is suicide, and that suicides are not on the rise.But she is using the wrong metric. Suicide is a complex issue that cannot be seen to reflect those with psychological issues. For while This the risk of suicide is higher amongst those with mental health disorders, the vast majority of this demographic do not take their own lives.
Therefore, you cannot base Government policy on a metric that tells only five per cent of the story. A better metric would be the trends in help-seeking behaviour across the population. This demonstrates an entirely different narrative to the one based on suicide rates, indicating that more investment, collaboration and interventions are now needed.
Demand is likely to increase in the coming weeks and months to come. One of the triggers could be the reopening of our society after almost 15 months of abnormal living conditions. With vaccinations reducing the effects of Covid-19, now is the time to prepare for the mental health aftermath. Failure to act could see psychological issues engulf the minds of countless citizens, and have a indiscriminative impact on our society and our economy.
The historical underinvestment of mental health services before the pandemic created substantial barriers to care for thousands of individuals across Britain: these must now be scaled-up. The broadened nature of mental distress has emerged from the pandemic and will require better services and collaboration. Now is the time to modernise and offer a more holistic approach to prevent mental illness, promote help-seeking and treat acute cases with stealth.
It has become evident that young people have been one of the most effected demographics. Seventy thousand students, one in 16, tried to access mental health interventions from their higher education institutions at the height of lockdown. More shocking was the substantial disparities in waiting times for such interventions, which were between three days and eight weeks.
Access to mental health interventions thus became based on geographical location, not need. The difficulties that young people have faced at universities, including learning complex academic skills at a distance and meeting their classmates over Zoom, has entrenched feelings of loneliness and isolation.
These experiences have been reflected in classrooms up and down the country. Recent research found that 66 per cent of young people have seen their mental health deteriorate throughout the pandemic, with one in four feeling ‘unworthy’ of support. It is evident from this finding that more needs to be done to encourage help-seeking behavior and the scaling-up of children and adolescent mental healthcare
Based on the evidence, a clear trend continues to emerge about young people’s mental health. It is clear that a crisis amongst young people is in our midst – one that requires a new holistic and modernised mental health framework. A holistic and collaborative approach is necessary to role back the tide on the suffering being experienced by young people in this country. This must include expanded interventions beyond the confines of our health system, better training for our education workforce and joint-up working between mental health services and all welfare agencies.
As Conservatives if we are serious about ‘building back better’ we must deliver this. Failure to act will only increase the individual, social and economic costs of mental health disorders.