10th October marked World Mental Health Day, which follows a timely Lancet Commission report that has declared that the world is failing to tackle a “mental health crisis”. This burgeoning epidemic of “monumental” suffering expected to cost the global economy $16 trillion between 2010 and 2030 if unaddressed. Suicide is the biggest killer of males under 45 in the UK, and numbers suffering and taking their own lives are growing outside the demographic too.
Despite celebrities from Prince Harry to the cast of TOWIE speaking out about their troubles the stigma around mental health remains, a concerning high 38% of sufferers saying they’ve been treated negatively due to their illness. Public figures such as Katie Hopkins have rubbished mental health problems by branding suicidal people “attention seeking b*stards”, whilst national newspapers have made light of the issue with coverage of Aaron Lennon’s struggles largely focussing on the footballer’s salary. This has contributed to many people suffering in silence, with 1 in 4 university students too uncomfortable to reveal mental health problems to friends.
Although health secretary Jeremy Hunt has stated that he wants “parity between mental and physical health”, services remain stretched, with woefully underfunded mental health trusts in England having their budgets slashed by £150m between 2012 and 2017, despite Health spending increasing by £8bn. This has resulted in a majority of people who contact mental health services having to wait a month before seeing a specialist, whilst 6% are forced to wait over a year, leading 75% of young people to declare that their condition deteriorated before they received treatment. Quality of care has also declined, with 30% fewer beds and 6000 fewer nurses in mental health services than a decade ago, causing the number of unexpected patient deaths to rise by 50% between 2014 and 2017.
Theresa May has promised to “end the stigma” around mental health with the creation of a suicide prevention minister. A minister who, in 2014, joked to the media about how she would rather jump off a cliff than join UKIP. Whilst this role, headed by Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price, may help the quarter of the population that suffers from mental health problems annually, progress will remain difficult whilst services remain so underfunded, and such stigma surrounding mental health remains.
If you are struggling to cope with any mental health issues, please talk to someone who you trust. The University also offers free wellbeing and counselling services, information on which can be found at https://www.ncl.ac.uk/students/wellbeing/support/