This could yet be a breakthrough year for the nation’s mental health. Or it could be one that we end up looking back upon with regret at missed opportunities and worse.
2017 has been a year featuring the most high profile campaign ever thrown at encouraging people to talk about their mental health. Spearheaded by the new broom of a previously impenetrable royal family, Heads Together have enjoyed ambassadors tailor-made for the cause. Princes William and Harry, symbols who have had to be too closed and too strong for too long, publicly chose to free themselves, as much as they can, from carrying their burdens alone.
Within weeks of the movement’s launch, publicity of a very different tone was released by another source. This organisation, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, possess all the credibility of the royals, but none of their web virality. So when the BACP issued a statement warning of the threat to counselling continuing to be underwritten as a primary ‘thing’ to be used for treating depression across the country, it caused barely a ripple.
Mental Health Today covered the story, which relates to a shake-up of the national guidelines for treating depression later this year. We did so because it feels like a dagger falling dangerously close to our heart and we know it matters to you too.
Favouring cognitive behavioural therapy
Those responsible for determining which treatments get priority are favouring cognitive behavioural therapy over counselling these days. There is value to be found in all approaches but counselling is often fundamental to long-term mental health. In a year in which people are being invited to open up like never before, we as a society need to prioritise listening.
All of this brings us to the shocking data released today by mental health charity Mind. NHS England, bound of course by budget restraints, sets itself a target of reaching just 15.8 percent of all people identified as likely to benefit from counselling. Mind’s data shows that even this small target is being missed across 60 percent of the country. The target is earmarked to rise to 25 per cent by the year 2021 in line with the much-trumpeted five year forward view, but this now appears unattainable.
A Conservative commitment to recruiting 10,000 mental health professionals made the party’s election manifesto but not their programme for the next two years as set out in the Queen’s Speech. More therapists are required if we are serious when we say we want people to talk about their problems.
Annika, who lives with depression, speaks for many when she explains why she currently needs counselling, rather than cognitive behavioural therapy. “I’ve never had counselling, I’ve only ever had CBT. For me, CBT is a sticking plaster to correct a behaviour, but it’s important to resolve the problem that’s underpinning a behaviour.
“Without counselling, problems might never really go away. It’s a constant cycle because I’ve never been given the tools to cope with the sadness. I have quite bad paranoia, which CBS helps with unravelling, but unless you address what is causing you to have the paranoia in the first place, the depression itself doesn’t go away. I live in Manchester where suicide rates are very high. I work in a mortuary. I really enjoy the job but I see the end results when people don’t get the treatments they need.”
How does this story make you feel? Join our Twitter chat on the counselling crisis at 12pm today, Wednesday June 28, using the hashtag #mhtchat