Time to shout about mental health

by Ben Walters

A new report has been published today looking at the treatment of patients with mental health problems who are admitted to hospital with a physical condition – and the findings are concerning.

At a time when there are calls for greater awareness of mental health issues, and with the government saying they will commit further resources to this area of the health service, this report demonstrates that we still have a long way to go.

It has long been known that those with mental health problems develop physical problems earlier in life and that they are also more likely to die earlier than those without mental health issues.

But the report by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD)  concludes that mental health issues are still generally seen as secondary to physical health in general hospitals, which affects overall care.

In the survey, outlined in the Executive Summary, existing mental health problems were initially mentioned in only about 50% of patients entering the Emergency Department. However, only 32 out of the 352 patients in the review were actually seen by the psychiatry services – just 9%.

Much of this is down to a lack of resources and training; out of the cases reviewed, they found that 68.8% received inadequate mental health observations. In other cases, it’s down to bureaucracy and lack of time; they found that the assessment of a patient by the psychiatry services was significantly delayed in general because “the liaison psychiatry team would not attend until the patient was declared medically fit”. In many hospitals, there is no psychiatry team whatsoever.

Only last week, MHP helped to launch a mental health campaign for the charity MQ, called “We Swear”. MQ are on a mission to change the status quo when it comes to mental health, by focusing on research to address the fundamental lack of knowledge around mental health issues and solutions.

The aim of the “We Swear” campaign is to channel the growing frustration people feel every day around the lack of real change. Through a bold creative showing the celebrities swearing, MQ aims to bring about radical change in the funding and approach to mental illness.

Hopefully, in-depth reviews and research, such as that in NCEPOD’s report, combined with ground-breaking creative campaigns, such as “We Swear”, can help to bring about much-needed change to a problem that has long been put to one side. And we’re not the only ones who think so – Alistair Campbell joined us in shouting about the issue last week too.