Has the teenage mental health crisis been ignored by the government?

by Sam Muir

Depression is a controversial topic in both British politics and sociology and surrounding it is a hazy stigma that divides the interested and the ignorant.

Having personally battled depression for over a year now I acknowledge the broad spectrum that it develops on with the differing degrees of severity. The rates of teenage depression have sky rocketed to surpass 70% in the past 25 years (The Independent, 2016) and only recently has action been taken to prevent further growth.

The Health Secretary and various other leaders for the past few years have repeatedly basked in their own ignorance concerning mental health. Children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS, 2010) received a pathetic 0.6% of the total NHS budget before PM David Cameron announced new funding a few months back. However this was revolutionary for the British government as on numerous occasions the government has failed mental health services, all the while the diagnoses of mental health grew exponentially, with suicide now being the biggest killer of men under the age of 50, also accounting for 1 in 4 deaths in men under the age of 35.

Recently the office for national statistics (ONS, 2015) released stats exposing a shocking gender gap in British suicides that concludes men are 3 times more likely to kill themselves than women. The mental health crisis with men is still a very real threat with the majority of men self medicating rather than seeking professional help. Whether this is due to the stereotypical image of a strong-willed British “man” or down to the stigma the media push onto us that mental illness is a sign of weakness is unknown. A charity that undertakes a lot of work in mental health awareness is “Time to Change” who annually organise a day throughout the UK to try to eradicate the stigma that surrounds male mental health.

The government has failed mental health services on a multitude of occasions. In early 2016 it was discovered that the number of nurses working in mental health had fallen by 10% since 2010 (The Independent, 2016). A significant reduction from 41,320 to 36,870 causes an array of problems when you consider the increase in the number of diagnoses nationally, and the growing incapability to cope with the crisis. In 2014 Professor Sue Bailey described the services available as a “car crash” (BBC, 2014). She highlighted the shrinking of services available to the growing demand and lay claim that due to the reduction of beds, patients would have to travel significant distances to access suitable care.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is renowned for not taking mental health seriously as well as only possessing a basic understanding of the issues and is yet to consider the crisis a priority. According to a Freedom of Information Act (BBC, 2014) it was revealed that Hunt had only visited the NHS front-line on a few occasions in a period spanning longer than 21 months. He has been frequently ridiculed for his nonsensical responses to questions relating to mental health and his inability to empathize with the afflicted.

A man however who has stood by the defense of mental health provisions and services is former Liberal Democrat care minister Norman Lamb. In late 2015 he announced the initiation of a cross-party campaign for improved funding for mental health services, which to a degree may have been responsible for Cameron’s pledge of £1bn to help prevent the growing mental health crisis.

To conclude, the government for such a prolonged time have been ignorant as to the seriousness of the issues at hand but seem to be approaching them with a more open mind and the determination to help the services with sufficient equality for the first time.

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