The word ‘crisis’ is overused in politics these days, but it seems perfectly appropriate to describe the state of mental health services in Thanet.
I learnt this week that Thinkaction – which provides Thanet’s cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling service – will be withdrawn on October 31.
This means that, if any of us experience mild to moderate health problems, like anxiety, depression, stress or trauma, our GP (assuming we can get an appointment with one) will have nowhere local to refer us.
Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group consistently misses the Government’s target of offering therapy within six weeks of referral. We’re the fifth worst area in the country for this.
Without doubt, the closure of the Thinkaction community mental health hub will put additional pressure on our already struggling doctors and cause misery for many people and their families.
If this vital lifeline is cut, mental health problems in our community will worsen and more of us will find ourselves in need of secondary mental health services. Our adult secondary service, the Beacon Community Mental Health Service, is underfunded and unable to cope with local demand.
Over a quarter of people in Thanet live in poverty – and it’s now widely accepted that long exposure to money worries and poor living conditions has a detrimental effect on our mental health and shortens our life expectancy.
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are two to three times more likely to develop mental health problems – with literally deadly knock-on effects. People experiencing severe and prolonged mental illness die on average 15 to 20 years earlier than the rest of the population.
Most serious mental health problems – like psychosis and schizophrenia – begin before the age of 24. Around a quarter of mental health problems are preventable through early intervention.
It’s vital that we try to prevent mental health problems from developing and intervene early when they do.
Our child and adolescent mental health services are run by North East London Foundation Trust. Some young people from Thanet who need to be admitted to hospital because of mental health problems are being sent more than 200 miles from home.
Labour will put an end to this misery. We will stop people being sent across the country, away from their support networks, by bringing forward the ending of out-of-area placements to 2019.
I’ve been contacted by a Ramsgate resident whose daughter has such severe autism that she’s unable to speak.
As this young woman approached adulthood, her behaviour became increasingly violent but she was denied medication.
She began harming herself and wreaking havoc on the house. Police and ambulance services were called.
After a night in Margate’s QEQM hospital, she was finally referred to the Beacon.
Once the crisis had passed, this vulnerable young woman was discharged into the care of her family with little follow-up.
I know of another young adult who has been hearing voices who has also been discharged.
Cut adrift from the system, her mother recently waited over five days for someone to contact her, and she has now received a standard appointment letter.
Last month, I was privileged to meet representatives of SpeakUp CIC, which provides peer support and a voice for mental health service users in Thanet.
They told me about the devastating consequences of lost services, such as Thanet Mind and the mental health unit at QEQM, the dilution of the Margate Taskforce and the threat to our local Mental Health Action Group.
I also learnt that SpeakUp’s Night Owls online support group is increasingly being used as a crisis service.
The projected rise in severe mental illness in Thanet is 3.8% by 2020; in mild to moderate mental illness, it’s 5%. It’s clear that we need more mental health services not fewer.
Between 2010 and 2015, £600 million was cut from mental health budgets, and there are now over 6,000 fewer mental health nurses than there were in 2010.
The Labour Party will work to reverse the damage done to mental health services under the Tory government.
We will make sure that mental health is considered equal to physical health and that much more emphasis is put on prevention and early intervention.
We need adequate mental health provision throughout our community, and we need to tackle the causes of mental ill health – beginning with poverty.
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS HELPLINE:
0800 107 0160 Available 24/7 365 days a year.
Call from mobiles 0300 330 5486
For urgent help when GP surgery is closed
KCC SOCIAL SERVICES OUT OF HOURS SERVICE:
03000 41 41 41 – for urgent help out of hours.
KENT COUNTY COUNCIL DUTY SERVICE –for
referral and needs assessment 24/7 03000 416161
KENT DEMENTIA HELPLINE: A helpline service to give information
and support for people with dementia and their carers. Freephone
0800 500 3014 available 24 hours a day. However, calls taken
between the hours of 0900-1700, Monday-Friday are taken by
qualified staff that can source and mail out relevant info: discuss any
concerns; signpost to relevant services: offer emotional support.
EAST KENT INDEPENDENT DEMENTIA SUPPORT:
Admiral Nursing DIRECT (for Dementia Help)
0845 257 9406
ASIAN MENTAL HEALTH HELPLINE 0808 800 2073 (Free phone
from BT landline). Confidential Support and Information Helpline. Mon
& Wed: 4.00pm-7.00pm Tues & Thurs: 12 noon-3.00pm