Waiting times for mental health treatment taking a toll

NEARLY 40 per cent of patients waiting for mental health treatment contact emergency or crisis services and 11 per cent end up in A&E, according to research from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

The survey of 513 British adults diagnosed with a mental illness also found that nearly 64 per cent wait more than four weeks between their initial assessment and second appointment, and 23 per cent wait more than three months and 11 per cent wait longer than six months.

Some respondents living with severe mental illness - including eating disorders, bipolar disorder and PTSD - were left waiting up to two years for treatment. Others were left waiting up to four years for treatment for depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

A majority (89 per cent) of those whose mental health deteriorated say it affected their life, including relationship problems (33 per cent), financial troubles (30 per cent) and problems at work, including job losses (18 per cent).

Dr Kate Lovett, Dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “It simply isn’t good enough that so many people are waiting for mental health treatment and ending up in crisis. Even before the pandemic hit, mental health services were not keeping up with demand. But the looming mental health crisis fuelled by the pandemic and the economic recession means waiting times could get a lot worse.

"As well as needing medical students and doctors to choose psychiatry we need decisive government action on workforce, infrastructure and funding."

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