July 23, 2012
A national blind spot
There are different ways to be healthy. We're told to look after our hearts, keep an eye on our blood pressure, maintain a balanced diet, visit the gym and to see a doctor 'if worrying symptoms persist'. It's considered entirely normal to look after our bodies and rightly so.
Yet our mind, the one part of our body we can't replace, we make no provision for. Our mind determines everything we do yet most of us have no care plan for it; and as a recent report reveals, neither does the NHS. But shouldn't mind care be normal? Is this a national blind spot, a socially acceptable insanity?
According to a new report by the London School of Economics,('How mental health loses out in the NHS') those seeking mental help are often ignored by the Health Service with underinvestment in their care 'the most glaring case of health inequality in our country.' They say mental health problems are far more common than generally appreciated, pervasive in their effects and often untreated, forced to play 2nd fiddle to physical ailments.
Yet the remarkable facts are these: among people under 65, nearly half of all ill health is mental illness. In other words, nearly as much ill health is mental illness as all physical illnesses put together. It's generally more debilitating as well. On average, a person with depression is at least 50% more disabled than someone with angina, arthritis, asthma or diabetes.
Mental pain is as real as physical pain and often more severe. Yet only a quarter of all those with mental illness are in treatment, compared with the vast majority of those with physical conditions. 'It is a real scandal,' says the report, 'that we have 6,000,000 people with depression or crippling anxiety conditions and 700,000 children with problem behaviours, anxiety or depression. Yet three quarters of each group get no treatment.'
They'll also have to wait longer for help. The NHS Constitution gives patients the right to be seen within 18 weeks yet the majority of people with depression or anxiety still wait for more than six months (often much longer) for psychological therapy. It's not deemed a priority. Yet mental health issues account for a quarter of the overall burden of disease in the UK - more than any other disease category - and 'have a similar effect on life expectancy to smoking.'
Neither is it the physical against the mental; the two are intimately related. An unwell mind can make existing physical illness worse. Interestingly, half of all NHS patients referred for first consultant appointments in the acute sector have 'medically unexplained symptoms'. Altogether the extra physical healthcare caused by mental illness now costs the NHS at least £10 billion.
This socially acceptable insanity in the NHS budget must be acceptable no more. It makes sense to be kind to the mind.
Posted by Mr Bojangles at July 23, 2012 11:06 AM