Jane Hetherington: Mental health in Thanet post-covid pandemic

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It is Mental Health Awareness Week (May 9-15). The Mental Health Foundation started Mental Health Awareness Week 21 years ago. 

Jane Hetherington is a mental health specialist who lives in Ramsgate.

The number of people contacting the NHS seeking help for mental health problems is at a record high. The centre for mental health predicted in October 2020 that 20% of the UK population, would be requiring services and that estimate has proven accurate.

A major concern is that 1.5 million of this figure are children and young people. Although the impact is highly variable what is incontrovertible is that one in nine children required referral pre-pandemic and one in six required referral in 2020, with referrals to children and adolescent mental health services reaching record highs in May 2021.

There are concerns already being expressed in relation to the rise in the number of Kent residents requiring mental health support, there has been a 20% rise in the number of referrals between 2020 and 2021.

Kent County Council (KCC ) has called for crucial improvements to be made in support services across the 12 areas of Kent (excluding Medway). Spending on mental health services as monitored by Mental Health Watch is recorded as being £189.88 per person 2021/22 in Kent and Medway compared to £208.69 across England (overall 9% lower). This would represent increases of 4.2% on the actual investment per head in 2020/21 and on 6.6% on the actual spend per head 2019/20. The Kent Improved Access to Psychological Therapies Programme (IAPT) clinical recovery rate is at 46% and therefore below the government target of 50%.

Thanet’s mental health needs, like those of Medway, have always been statistically higher due in main to a number of poverty related health inequalities. A growing body of evidence reveals a strong socioeconomic gradient in mental health with people in a lower socioeconomic status having a greater likelihood of developing mental health problems.

Thanet continues to rank as the most deprived local authority in Kent as measured by the indices of multiple deprivation. Thanet has the highest rate of child poverty in Kent and the southeast around 10,500 children are affected according to the survey for End Child Poverty.

The UK has some of the worst child poverty rates in Europe. Children living in households in the lowest 20% income bracket in Great Britain are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop mental health problems than those in the highest.

Employment status statistics also reveal that those who are unemployed or economically inactive have higher rates of common mental health problems than those who are employed. Those on housing benefit are more than twice as likely to have a common mental health problem. These statistics are just some of the variables that impact mental health in Thanet.

Statistics relating to substance abuse, psychosis/schizophrenia, severe and enduring mental health problems, personality and eating disorders and children’s mental health issues have historically been higher in Thanet. Without doubt local services are struggling, substance misuse referrals have increased as have referrals to primary and secondary mental health services and even more importantly to children and adolescent services.

There is a lack of early intervention which would prevent people’s mental health deteriorating to a point where more extensive interventions are required. The waiting lists for children’s services are at an all time high due to an increase in demand and a lack of appropriately qualified practitioners.

What can we do to protect and assist our mental health? Firstly try to put things in place that assist and support you, a healthy diet, exercise, friendships and self care are all sound basics put your well-being first. Consult your GP if you feel in need of more intensive support.

Adults

For residents of Thanet who are not currently a patient with KMPT

Call 0800 7839111 a 24 hour helpline for urgent mental health support

Or 0800 1070160 for a conversation with someone from Release the Pressure team or text Kent on 85258 for 24 hour mental health crisis support.

Under 18’s ( Children and Young People’s Services)

Residents of Thanet call 24 hour Single Point of Access 0800 011 3474 ( select option one, then option three)

Porchlight 0800 567 7699

Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.uk

Live Well Kent for over 17’s https://live well kent.org.uk

Jane Hetherington- BA (Hons), MSc Integrative Psychotherapy, MSc Mental Health, UKCP reg, BACP accred

6 Comments

  1. Laura Dodsworth’s seminal book on how the UK government weaponised fear during the covid-19 era – ‘A State of Fear’ – sums it all up on what created the enormous mental health crisis. With a few exceptions, no political figure from any party was honest enough to speak out against the extreme dangers of locking down an entire society. Many many experts were censored. But even Dr Max Pemberton in the Daily Mail now acknowledges ‘While many of us now regard lockdown as a distant memory, for some it simply proved too much. We are on the brink of an unprecedented mental health crisis of a magnitude which we can only begin to imagine, and it is a direct result of the pandemic and lockdown.’ Psychological specialists have flagged the dangers to public figures, such as the Hart Group here (We are writing to you as a group of psychological specialists and health professionals to highlight our major ethical concerns about the deployment of covert behavioural-science techniques – commonly referred to as ‘nudges’ – in the Government’s COVID-19 communications strategy https://www.hartgroup.org/ethical-concerns-arising-from-the-governments-use-of-covert-psychological-nudges/), but the current hand-wringing from others is all too little and too late. The damage and destruction of the lockdowns and associated fear messaging are now there to see in plain sight. Nothing was safe or effective as government statistics show themselves, mirrored by those across the world.

  2. Mental health for adults and children has been crap since 1976 when we moved here. Nothing new at all. Buck passing and years of waiting are quite normal in Thanet and indeed all of Kent. Mental health is way down the pecking order in funding. I have seen the results of it and can say quite honestly it is crap from start to finish. It is no surprise to me that quite a few take their own lives. They see no help or future.

  3. It really makes my blood boil when Mental Health advocates point the finger of blame at lockdown measures when such measures are in place to prevent needless deaths.

    Suffering MH issues vs being dead. Hmmm … The selfishness and indifference among such groups is unbelievable.

  4. The simplest way to improve mental health in Thanet is to close down the Beacon (completely unfit for purpose) and to remove the care contract from Invicta healthcare (who do absolutely nothing to earn their money). Once that is done, spend the saved money on employing people who care about mental health instead of just collecting a paycheck.

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