February was a busy month, filled with hashtags: #TimeToTalk; #ItsOkNotToBeOK; #childrenmentalhealthweek, and #ItsNotOk, for Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week. These are all important topics to learn about and discuss. They are definitely great 1st steps but, they aren’t enough.
Unfortunately, talking isn’t enough. Very often, when someone opens up about their difficulties with Depression, or Anxiety. They are advised to speak to their GP. At this time, in the UK, it is near impossible to get an appointment with a Doctor. In A&E, patients are waiting for up to 24 hours, if not more, to be seen. The children and adults’ mental health services have years-long waiting lists. To make matters worse, in January 2023, the 10-year cross-Government plan for mental health and well-being has been scrapped and replaced with a decision to combine the mental health plan with plans for chronic health conditions.
- 24 January 2023, Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive of Rethink Mental Illness, responded: “Rethink Mental Illness ‘deeply disappointed’ at shelving of 10-year-plan for Mental Health and Wellbeing.” which you can read in full on the Rethink Mental Illness’ website.
It is nearly impossible to get access to therapy on the NHS. They mainly offer 8 weeks of CBT, sometimes online. The lack of funding, for the last 10 years, has resulted in poor care and unending waiting lists. Private counseling/ therapy is a luxury for those who need support the most. This will only get worse with the “Cost of Living” crisis.
The other problem, for those who speak up, is the response they get by therapists, and those closest to them:
“Leave the past in the past.”
“You are overreacting.”
“You don’t really want to get better, do you?”
” Think positive.”
All these remarks are denying or minimising the painful experiences individuals go through. More often than not, it feels like it isn’t ok to be ok. The way individuals are encouraged and supported is outdated. “Trauma-Informed” is all the rage right now.
But, what does “Trauma-Informed” really means?
- NAPAC explains it well: Trauma-informed practice page.
“In other words, a trauma-informed organization pursues an approach in all areas of its operations to prevent the replication of traumatic experiences or dynamics among clients and staff and avoids adding to the chronic stress people carry.
A program, organization, or system that is trauma-informed, as defined by the US Government, realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery, recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, family, staff, and others involved in the system, responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices, seeks to actively resist re-traumatisation.”
An authentic Trauma Informed Practice focuses on the individual’s experiences of trauma and on its impact, not just on the “disordered” symptoms resulting from adverse experiences. It is a person-centred approach when the patient is involved in their care and supported through difficult times.
Young Mind published the following statistics:
One in six children aged five to 16 were identified as having a probable mental health problem in July 2021, a huge increase from one in nine in 2017. That’s five children in every classroom.
- Just over one in three children and young people with a diagnosable mental health condition get access to NHS care and treatment.
- In a YoungMinds survey, three-quarters (76%) of parents said that their child’s mental health had deteriorated while waiting for support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) (x).
- In a YoungMinds commissioned survey by Censuswide, two-thirds (67%) of young people said they would prefer to be able to access mental health support without going to see their GP but half (53%) said they didn’t know how else to access this help.
What makes things even more difficult for children is the lack of mental health awareness in schools. The focus is solely on getting top marks and top attendance. If a child keeps missing classes because of, for instance, anxiety, both parents and children are threatened with fines and sanctions. If a child isn’t well s/he/they will not be able to focus on their education, this mounting pressure is counter-productive. The child is being punished for being unwell, adding to their distress.
More funding is needed for the Mental Health National budget. We need more person-centered therapeutic approaches and more compassionate, trauma-informed practices; not just therapies to change “problematic” behaviors. The connection of mind and body needs to be fully accepted and taken into serious consideration in care plans. There is a need for a shift from: “What is wrong with you? Let’s see how we can fix you.” To “What happened to you? Let me know what you need.”
The biggest stigma of all is the perception that people suffering from mental illnesses are mad. lazy, difficult, or childish. They need to be corrected, when, in fact, most of the time, what these individuals really need is a safe place, a safe person they can just pour their heart out to, without fear of being told how they really feel, what they should do and having this huge pressure to better themselves, (quickly please!), and to perform in ways that are more “acceptable.”
We all need love and acceptance, during our most difficult times.
You can also read, on Winter Turns into Spring:
- Teenagers’ Mental Health and Happiness Matter
- Child Sexual Abuse: we aren’t “losing it”, we are suffering.
- Recovery from Child Sexual Abuse and Self-compassion
- Child Sexual Abuse: When Therapists Got it Wrong