Seeking help when it comes to mental health problems is fundamental but for many in this country, it is not always possible to access the treatment needed in order to cope with the daily struggles depression, anxiety and panic attacks.
For me, I have always been lucky, in some senses, I had my first panic attack at university in a time when money wasn’t such a problem. I had a part-time job, student loan and my parents to help me out if I needed – but for many this isn’t the same experience they go through. Don’t get me wrong I am in no way loaded, but I am careful with my money and always ensure I have savings in order to save my ass if my mental health takes a turn for the worse again.
From long NHS waiting lists to super expensive private psychiatrists, what’s someone struggling with their mental health supposed to do if they need help right now?
As Refinery29 put it in a recent article:
“At a time when one in four young women in the UK are reporting mental health problems, Prime Minister Theresa May has admitted that support services across the country are “patchy” at best. And, unfortunately, the recent case of Girl X – in which a judge condemned the decision to send a suicidal 17-year-old girl home due to a lack of mental health beds – is just another black mark against the current state of public mental health care.”
I think it was only fair for us to talk more and louder about the access to mental health services in this country. My experience spans over six years, and many services. I have had CBT at university, private counselling with a therapist in Nottingham, group CBT sessions with IAPT in Milton Keynes, a very expensive psychiatrist (who was brilliant was £90 per session) and now I currently have support from MIND where they subsidise the price of session depending on your income.
All of these services have varied in expense and usefulness, and for me this was something I could access. I know friends however, that couldn’t. Even £30 was a lot of money to part with, and instead they had to face month and months of waiting to reach the top of the list with local mental health services and MIND.
Recent reports from the same Refinery29 article said:
Stephen Buckley, head of information at the mental health charity Mind, tells us that “although talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling are becoming more widely available – as part of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme – they still aren’t available to everyone who needs them.”
He continues: “Earlier this year the EHRC report found that many people are waiting 90 days in England to receive treatment – partly due to constant underfunding and an increased demand.”
So if you can’t afford to go private, what are your other options?
1. Go to your GP – they are a gateway to other services and can refer you to free and paid for services including counselling and CBT. However, be prepared for long waiting times!
2. Online therapy – self help websites offering tutorials on CBT, free counselling from the safety of your home and tips and advice on mindfulness. Don’t dismiss this option – it could help you while you are waiting.
3. Peer-to-peer support – There are many forums available; r/mentalhealth and r/getting_over_it on Reddit are worth a visit, and Mind runs a network where sufferers can discuss problems and potential solutions with others who are going through similar experiences.
4. Exercise – more useful than you’d ever think! Honestly…
5. Alternative therapies – eco-therapy or arts therapy – ecotherapy the name given to a wide range of treatment programmes which aim to improve your mental and physical wellbeing through doing outdoor activities in nature. Connecting with nature in this way can have lots of positive health benefits.
6. Meditation – meditation can really help clear your mind
7. Charity support – Go online and look for charities that offer counselling options! Anxiety UK, which has a national network of therapists who deliver interventions such as CBT, counselling and clinical hypnotherapy at more affordable rates. Within a few weeks, she started therapy at £35 per weekly session, for about six months.
8. MIND services – I love MIND, they’re great and I have been to them for counselling and CBT support. They offer sessions at a discounted rate depending on your income. E.g. If you earn £20,000 you will pay £20 per session and so on. They also have other services such as mindfulness courses etc. Oh and you can refer yourself!
9. Private – This was a last resort for me when my depression and panic attacks took a real low this time last year. I couldn’t wait any longer, and had to go private. I ended up paying the earth, but good god she was good. And in 8 weeks I was getting back to going out the house, and seeing friends.
Of course, when it comes to mental health, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, but a good support network makes a significant difference. And whilst you are waiting for the access to the services, you can help yourself.
If you are struggling with your mental health and need some support, visit Mind’s website or give them a call on 0300 123 3393.