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Will the next pandemic be a mental health one?

Woman Faking a smile due to mental health

Mental health has been an issue for individuals and communities worldwide for some years. The Covid 19 pandemic exacerbated the problem, and an increasing number of people experienced poor mental health due to the effects of lockdown and fears surrounding their physical health.

The pandemic brought mental health issues into conversations around our future physical and mental health. It has become evident that a mental health crisis is on the horizon.

According to a survey by the mental health charity Mind, 60% of adults and 68% of young people reported that their mental health deteriorated during the pandemic. Many people experienced increased stress, anxiety, and depression due to isolation, financial strain, and uncertainty about their futures. The pandemic also exacerbated pre-existing mental health problems, and many people were not able to access the support they needed.

The UK's mental health services have been struggling to meet demand for years, with long waiting times and a lack of resources a familiar feature. Patients have also experienced issues when trying to make face-to-face appointments.

Man suffering alone with Mental Health

According to a recent report by the British Medical Association, the UK's mental health services require an additional £2.3 billion in funding to meet demand and improve the quality of care. The third sector, which includes charities and non-profit organisations, plays a vital role in providing mental health support. These good causes provide a range of services—from online support groups to counselling and therapy. However, these organisations have also been affected by the pandemic, and many have come out the other side facing significant financial difficulties, predominantly due to a decrease in donations and cancelled fundraising events.

As the UK faces a mental health crisis, it’s essential that third sector funding reflects this growing need for effective preventative and responsive services that could help to combat the problem. Without adequate funding, many organisations will struggle to meet demand and provide vital support to those who need it.

Here are some reasons why funding for mental health services should become an urgent priority.

Increased demand for services

Many people have been struggling with mental health problems for the last three years and more. The longer the pandemic continued, the more people needed support that never materialised. Third sector organisations are often the first places people turn to when seeking help concerning their mental health.

Government funding is not enough

While the UK government provided additional funding for mental health services during the pandemic, it is unlikely to be enough—the demand has escalated so much, particularly amongst younger people who have been identified as the section of society who suffered the worst isolation during lockdowns. The government's funding is primarily focused on the NHS, with many third sector organisations who offer support to those suffering from poor mental health not receiving any additional funding. These charitable organisations rely on donations and fundraising to provide their services,

Third sector organisations provide specialised support

Charitable organisations often provide specialised support that’s not available through the NHS. For example, many provide help and advice surrounding specific mental health problems, such as eating disorders or PTSD. These organisations often offer a more personalised approach, and many people find their support more helpful than traditional NHS provision. Without adequate funding, these charities may have to reduce their services or close down altogether.

Third sector organisations reach underserved communities

Many third sector organisations work with underserved and disadvantaged communities, such as people from ethnic minority backgrounds or those living in poverty. These communities are often less likely to access NHS services; third sector organisations therefore provide a vital lifeline for those in need of support. Whilst the NHS battles to serve everyone with any given complaint, these charities are often able to perform outreach work. They can also be much more specific in their support and become more knowledgeable about the wider circumstances of the individuals they support.

Prevention is key

talking about Mental Health

Investing in mental health support is essential for preventing long-term mental health problems. Charitable organisations often provide prevention-focused services, such as education and awareness-raising campaigns. By investing in these services, we can go some way towards preventing mental health problems escalating within future generations.

If you were to research the state of mental health services in the UK as we stand today, it would make for grim reading. I can’t get into why the government wastes so much public money on inappropriate and inadequate provision of services in the NHS and elsewhere, but as I discussed in this article, it’s always the third sector that picks up the slack. If they are forced to dissolve their organisations through a lack of funds, however, where will that leave the mental health of UK residents then?

It’s a crude way to say it, but charitable organisations don’t really care too much about where their funding comes from—the public sector, the private sector or from individuals like you and me—they care more that it reaches them at all, so that they can help the people they’ve committed to support.

Whether the state of mental health services in the UK reaches a crisis point or not, time will tell. But, as I stated above, prevention is better than the cure. We need to be investing in these services now.


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