As someone who has suffered from mental illness for the majority of my life, I have experienced the repercussions of a healthcare system which is struggling to sufficiently fund mental health treatment. In the three years that I have been receiving help from CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) I have suffered due to the lack of therapists available, insufficient training of staff members, and poor living conditions in mental health inpatient units, all caused by a sheer lack of money being invested into caring for those with mental health conditions.
Despite recent increases in the NHS mental health budget, in September 2018 it was released that “[Suicide] rate among girls aged 15-19 hits record high” in England and Wales, indicating that not enough is being done to help those suffering from mental illness, especially teenage females. With the pressures of social media, celebrity influencers and societal expectations, girls of this age are bombarded with the message that they aren’t good enough, causing issues such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders, all of which the NHS simply can’t afford to properly treat under the current budget, as shown by the increase in the suicides of girls under this age bracket.
Speaking from personal experience, I can say without a doubt that there are far too little funds being invested into mental healthcare, specifically adolescent inpatient units. In early to mid-2017, I spent just over five months being treated for the eating disorder Anorexia Nervosa in the Stobhill-based adolescent mental health unit Skye House, and whilst there I was not only living in physically unsanitary conditions, but was provided with almost no therapy at all, which was explained by the simple fact that there were not enough psychologists to provide regular therapy sessions for all of the patients. During my stay I met patients who had spent time in the unit three, four and even more times, simply becoming “revolving-door” patients due to lack of resources available to help them recover for good. It’s difficult to feel motivated to change your life when there are messages scrawled on the walls of your room stating, “it never gets better”, which remain there as the unit cannot afford to hire anyone to paint over these messages. Maybe it would get better for some of the young people suffering so horribly at the hands of mental illness if the National Health Service could actually afford to provide them with sufficient treatment.
“Mental health problems account for 23 per cent of the burden of disease in the United Kingdom but spending on mental health services consumes only 11 per cent of the NHS budget”. This statement alone shows that there is a huge issue regarding the lack of money spent on treating those struggling with poor mental health. With young people often waiting up to 40 weeks to receive mental health treatment according to Young Minds Activists, it has been recorded that 76% of mentally ill young people were thought to have experienced a severe decline in their wellbeing during the extended waiting times for treatment by CAMHS, often leading to deaths that could have been preventable if more resources were available sooner for those suffering. 69% of parents and carers have also said that their children received no other form of support or help during the wait to see CAMHS, simply being left to suffer alone until the tight budget could finally provide them the help that they desperately needed.
A study conducted by the youth mental health charity “Young Minds” has shown that as of September 2018, less than 1% of NHS funding was being spent on CAMHS, showing that young people struggling with mental illness are receiving even less funding and resources than adults suffering from the same illnesses. This is demonstrated clearly by the fact that, from September 2017 – September 2018, 187 people under the age of nineteen took their own lives. This number is 15% more than the year before, making it crystal clear that not nearly enough is being done to prevent young people from reaching breaking point and committing suicide. So many of these suicides could potentially have been prevented if there were more resources available to treat mental illness, but it is close to impossible for mental health services to provide the treatment necessary to prevent teens from taking their own lives with such a tiny margin of the overall funding being invested into CAMHS, the only NHS funded mental health service available for children and adolescents in the UK.
There are several charities such as Young Minds and Samaritans who rely on public donations in order to fund their attempts to help those who require help and support but cannot receive it from the NHS due to the lack of funding, however these charities cannot support anywhere near all of the young people in crisis due to mental illness, and are not serving as a replacement for CAMHS despite continued and dedicated efforts to support as many young people as possible.
The issue of teenage mental illness is only going to keep growing due to the pressures of modern society, and without sufficient funding to provide therapy, medication and inpatient treatment for these young people, the number of lives being lost each year has the potential to increase drastically in the coming years unless more money is invested into CAMHS immediately.