May's resignation speech claimed improved mental health services as an achievement. In reality, a dangerously stretched NHS is facing a growing number of referrals—and campaigners say Conservative policies are to blameby Sharan Dhaliwal / May 24, 2019 / Leave a comment
Watch the clip of her resignation speech, and you will notice Theresa May begins her list of accomplishments with a slight stammer: “That is why I put proper funding for mental health at the heart of our NHS long term plan.” Perhaps it’s because her legacy involves the very opposite of that statement.
Last year, NHS figures showed that around 400,000 young people 18 and under contacted them for active referrals for their mental health. Many of them were referred by their GPs, seeking help for conditions like anxiety, depression and eating disorders.
Yet during the same period, the number of beds allocated to mental health patients fell by 30 per cent, and the number of nurses by 15 per cent. The under-resourced NHS isn’t to blame—it’s the lack of assistance from our conservative government.
An NHS self-referral scheme was sent to me when I was suffering the worst I ever have from anxiety and depression. I was unable to go to my GP, so this concept thrilled me. Six days after filling out the form, I receive a phone call to discuss my mental health further, so they can accurately allocate me to the correct services. They confirm my “severe anxiety,” “severe low mood” and set up additional phone calls.
I never hear from them again. I’m glad I wasn’t suicidal.
With suicide being the leading death of young people, there should have been a concerted push to do better. Indeed, during her premiership, Theresa May has regularly announced that a lot of work needs to be done and that mental health has been “overlooked too long.” Like a scratched record, she has returned to this line—‘things must be done’—with no clarity as to what the ‘things’ are.
Mental health is political
When considering why the demand for mental health services has increased, we also need to ask how governmental policies have allowed this surge to occur in young people. Another of May’s statements, “our national debt is falling but we’re bringing an end to austerity,” can help us answer.
The lack of services is the effect. When looking at the causes, we see things like financial disruption and hardship, a lack of disability services, anti-immigration narratives, and inadequate violent and sexual and domestic abuse services—each of…