EIP LondonPeople in London believe that mental health problems should be taken as seriously as those for physical health, a new survey has revealed.

The Attitudes to Psychosis survey, which sought to understand Londoners’ awareness of psychosis, also revealed Londoners agree that people experiencing mental health problems need quick access to help and that waiting time targets should be introduced for psychosis services.

In the survey of 1,000 Londoners by the Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) London programme, 81% agreed that “it is important that we take mental ill health as seriously as physical health problems”. Meanwhile, 72% agreed that “people suffering mental health problems need help quickly, or it might become more severe”, and 73% agreed that “mental health services should have maximum waiting time targets, like there are for cancer services, so people diagnosed with psychosis can receive help as quickly as possible”.

EIP London’s survey also found confidence among Londoners about spotting the signs of mental illness and helping those experiencing it, with 78% of respondents saying they would encourage a friend or relative who was showing signs of serious mental health problems to seek help, or would seek help for them. Additionally, 59% could correctly identify possible signs of psychosis – such as perceiving or interpreting things differently from those around them, which might involve delusions and hearing distressing voices – and 49% felt confident in how to seek help for someone with severe mental health problems.

Philippa Garety, chair of the EIP London programme’s Clinical Reference Group, professor of Clinical Psychology at King’s College London and clinical director of the Psychosis Clinical Academic Group at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust said: “London’s population clearly has a sense of empathy towards people with psychosis and serious mental health issues.

“It’s encouraging to see such a large number of respondents recognise that we need to take mental health issues as seriously as physical health, and that they would actively encourage loved ones to seek help if needed.

“The London public is also in relatively good shape to spot concerning symptoms that should prompt an assessment. We should build on this to help more people gain access to the right help quickly. The survey showed people would generally turn to the right places to seek help, such as their GP, mental health helplines, local mental health groups and mental health trusts.

“Encouragingly, people were much less likely to head straight to A&E, dial 999 or call the police.”

New waiting time standard

Meanwhile, a new access and waiting time standard for EIP services is currently being introduced nationally as part of the drive to achieve parity of esteem for mental health.

The new standard states that by April 1, 2016, more than 50% of people experiencing a first episode of psychosis will be seen by specialists and commence effective treatment and care, as recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, within two weeks of referral.

Currently, 9 mental health trusts in London deliver early intervention services, supporting more than 4,000 service users every year across the capital. A further 1,500 service users experiencing first episode psychosis are supported by other community mental health teams within the trusts.

Professor Garety added: “The new EIP targets are aiming to deliver what the survey suggests Londoners expect, which is quick access to help and professional services for those who may be experiencing a first episode of psychosis.

“The EIP London programme is currently working with mental health trusts and commissioners across London to help local early intervention services prepare for the new standard.”

Similar readiness programmes are also taking place in other English regions to prepare for the new access and waiting time standard.