Mental health services could be overwhelmed by a “tsunami” of referrals when coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown measures end, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has warned.
A survey by the College found almost half (45%) of psychiatrists had seen a reduction in routine mental health appointments. Its led to fears that patients are avoiding support until they reach crisis point.
Meanwhile, 43% of psychiatrists had seen an increase in their urgent and emergency caseloads, where patients were showing the most serious conditions.
Professor Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said:
We are already seeing the devastating impact of Covid-19 on mental health with more people in crisis.
But we are just as worried about the people who need help now but aren’t getting it.
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
Our fear is that the lockdown is storing up problems which could then lead to a tsunami of referrals.
The College said the pandemic has made it “much harder” for mental health services to offer routine appointments, despite the introduction of remote consultations.
Its survey of more than 1,300 mental health doctors in the UK suggests the biggest reduction in routine care had been for older adults, children and young people, as well as within general hospitals.
Continued government investment needed
The College said steps must now be taken to ensure mental health services are ready to help people as the number of coronavirus cases begins to fall.
Professor Burn added:
Mental health services will be at risk of being overwhelmed unless we see continued investment.
The Office for National Statistics found that between 20-30 March almost half (49.6%) of people in Great Britain reported levels of anxiety.
Meanwhile, research by the Royal Society for Public Health found that young people were more likely to experience poor mental health and wellbeing under lockdown than older adults.
In regard to older people, Dr Amanda Thompsell, chairwoman of the faculty of old age psychiatry, said they’re “often reluctant” to seek help, even though their need for mental health support is “likely to be greater than ever”. She said:
We are worried about the impact of shielding and self-isolation, anxiety about the virus and the difficulty some older people find in using technology to video-call a doctor.
Written responses to the survey from psychiatrists suggested that some older patients were “too fearful” to seek help. Others reported that patients had more severe psychotic symptoms which incorporated coronavirus-related themes.
Dr Jim Bolton, chairman of the faculty of liaison psychiatry, said:
Following a quieter than normal period, we are now seeing more vulnerable patients presenting in crisis.
Many of these patients have suicidal thoughts or have harmed themselves.
The pandemic is having a serious negative impact on people with mental illness and we are worried things could get worse.
A total of 1,369 psychiatrists responded to the College’s survey between 1-6 May.
Emma Thomas, chief executive of the mental health charity YoungMinds, said:
We know that many young people have lost or had their support reduced, and this (survey) confirms that many are not seeking help until they reach crisis point, with potentially devastating consequences.
An NHS spokesperson said mental health services continue to be “open and available”, adding that they’ve been adapted to ensure people can still receive therapy and counselling from their clinician.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?