Mental health care has become front and centre in the minds of society. The countless repetition of a broken system – a system with long waiting times and long waiting lists.
It has been noted the catastrophic effect that such a broken system is having on our society with growing economic and social consequences.
To solve this growing issue, a new outlook is required; an outlook that doesn’t just rely on the NHS to solve the growing mental health crisis, but considers how areas such as within the education system, policing and in the collection of data can make a difference
It demands innovative solutions to complex problems.
By modernising our approach to mental health in all areas, we can have better economic and social outcomes.
An education on mental health
The negative effects of mental illness have been shown to reduce life chances for young people in the UK’s education system. There are a range of factors causing this:
- Lack of recognition of mental illness.
- Minimal mental health training for educational staff.
- Increased exam pressures on young people.
- And young people lacking awareness of maintaining good mental health.
An example of the loss of life chances is:
Exclusion from school – recent research by the IPPR showed that half of excluded pupils suffer from a mental health problem.
To solve such inequalities, we need to create partnerships between a range of organisations to support pupil’s mental health and work in the prevention of mental ill health in education.
Mental Health Partnerships: mental health partnerships would bring together teachers, local NHS trusts, local charities and local social enterprises to create a localised plan of action to support local pupils. For too long these different agencies have worked in silos and bringing them together to train, innovate and inspire better mental health support in schools is a start.
This approach could make an enormous difference to secondary schools around the country, supporting those at the age range most at risk of developing mental health disorders.
A health service that leads on mental health
Our national health services has always been the first line of call for people with mental health problems. Although, there are large issues currently with:
To reduce waiting times, we need to start increase the number of qualified staff in the profession:
- 15,000 more NHS mental health nurses - over a nine-year period by subsidising the university fees of 5000 individuals each year. Furthermore, those in receipt of this subsidy will have to work in the NHS for a minimum of five years. The salaries of individuals who take up this subsidy will be capped at £30,000 a year for five years which is high enough to entice individuals, but low enough to create savings.
- Newly qualified nurses start at a Band 5, but the proposed amount that the salary would be capped at does not prevent them gaining promotion to a high Band 6 or a low Band 7.
We need to of course support the next generation of mental health nurses, but we should also expect more from students who take up the scheme including supporting fellow students at universities and working in our NHS.
The overall cost of such a policy would be £2.6 billion. With just a 3% saving in the cost of bad mental health, the policy would have already created economies.
Policing a modernised mental health approach
The research I have undertaken on behalf of Parliament Street think tank has unveiled what I like to call the ‘side effects’ of poormental health on society.
We found that there were just over 295,000 police incidents where mental health was recorded as a factor.
There is some fantastic work going on in Kent, with police and crime commissioner Matthew Scott coming up with some key ideas which I endorse:
- Linking with charities- Kent Police now have counsellors from the Mind charity supporting staff in the control room – supporting vulnerable callers and freeing up more time for police to fight crime.
- Local police funding to tackle mental health- Mr Scott has also put £250,000 of protected funding into local projects that reduce the amount of police time spent on mental health.
- Crisis Café’s- There is the example of Crisis Café’s which creates a safe space within a café environment to discuss mental health issues.
All these responses allow a localised, non-exclusion and refreshed approach to mental health support by the police.
Data collection and governance arrangements fit for progress
To truly track the difference policy ideas have on mental health care, we need better data collection by organisations.
This means data being recorded needs to be in a reportable format. The amount of times I have done research and a response has been received declaring ‘not in presentable format’.
It requires more in depth recording of information and the availability of such information being more readily available to the public.
In addition, it demands all services by law to record and hold such information which too often is not available when called upon.
The governance arrangements currently in place in organisations such as the NHS protect data well, but we need to make it easier for information about young people’s and adults mental health to be shared responsibly with the appropriate parties through renewed governance arrangements.
In a young person’s case, it could be very useful for information to be shared between schools and NHS trusts allowing better understanding of the pupil’s situation and stopping expertise working in silos.
- Renewed governance arrangements for mental health.
- Sharing key information through appropriate channels.
- Stopping services from working in silos.
To conclude, we need a revitalised and modernised mental health care system. Mental health is one of the biggest issues of this generation and mental illness can lead to some of the biggest inequalities of this time – we must revitalise and modernise the system to meet the challenges posed in this sector in the 21st century.