Dan Parton (22/5/12) looks at the increase in mental health helpline calls:
This week, mental health charity Mind has revealed that calls to its Infoline, from October 2011 to April 2012, were up by 18%year-on-year. And this big jump can be attributed, at least in part, to the recession.
According to Mind, since 2008 - when the financial downturn started - calls about personal finances and employment, have increased by 100%. It is well known that demand for mental health services increases in times of recession. And it's obvious why: as Mind's figures show, worries about employment and money (or lack of it) are a major cause of stress and depression. That calls are up by nearly a fifth demonstrates just how many people are experiencing these difficulties.
With the UK economy recently entering recession again, and the economic outlook remaining gloomy for the rest of the year, it seems likely that calls to Mind's Infoline - and others - will remain high, if not increase again, in the coming 12 months. But this surge in calls brings its own problems; sadly, about 40%of calls to Mind's Infoline currently go unanswered. Mind's chiefexecutive, Paul Farmer, put this down to a shortage of people to answer calls. He also noted that the charity is facing potential funding cuts.
So, with more people seeking their services, Mind, like many others in the sector, is attempting the delicate juggling act of doing more with less - or, at best, the same. Of course, the major reason for the cuts, not only for charities, but public,private and third sector organisations providing mental health services, lies with the Government's austerity programme. Around the country, for example, local authorities have to make what are often swingeing budget cuts, which mean that some services are being cut back or stopped altogether.
It seems counter-intuitive that at a time when more people require mental health services, funding for them is being cut.Given how much poor mental health is supposed to cost the economy -about £30 billion per year, according to independent employee relations body Acas - funding services must surely be seen as an investment, not simply a cost. But the reality is that more cuts to the public sector purse are scheduled for the coming years as the Government seeks to reduce the country's debt level, so the situation is set to get worse.
If this is the case, it is the kind of people who call Mind's advice line who will lose the most: these are the people who need services and, who, despite the best efforts of those involved in organisations like Mind, may not be able to access them, just when their need is greatest.