Friday, 4 September 2015

I refuse to stay in the shadows

Following the meeting with my local MP, I have been forwarded the response by Alistair Burt (Minister of State for Community and Social Care). In the letter he states that improving mental health and treating mental illness are key priorities for NHS England. One of the core objectives is to put mental health on a par with physical health, and to close the gap between people with mental health problems and the population as a whole.

According to Mr Burt, there is no cap on the number of counselling sessions per person. He goes on to say that whilst the Department of Health is responsible for setting the strategic direction of health and social care, local clinical commissioning groups are responsible for commissioning therapy sessions based on local need. He advised me to contact my local NHS with my concerns. 

I have spoken with about 10 people in various parts of the UK who have also previously had counselling via the NHS. All of these people were offered a maximum of 6 counselling sessions. These people also said, like myself, that they felt that 6 sessions was not a sufficient amount to meet their needs.

The Department of Health stipulates publicly that there is no cap on counselling sessions available to individuals. However, it is quite apparent that regional clinical commissioning groups are privately advised to offer a maximum of 6. 

One of the core objectives of NHS England is to put mental health on a par with physical health, however, the NHS still has a long way to go. It’s apparent that there is a sense of stigma and discrimination associated with mental health. A simple comparison to highlight the inequality: If a man breaks his leg, he is offered as many physiotherapy sessions as he needs in order to recover. However, if a survivor of long term abuse is in need of counselling, he/she is solely offered 6 therapy sessions. The difference being: a broken leg is clearly visible but mental illness is not. 

There needs to be more awareness of mental health and the issues it can cause people in their everyday lives. When it comes to PTSD sufferers and survivors of long term abuse, they are in need of long term therapy that will help unravel their complex issues. The 6 sessions offered by the NHS are not enough so, as a result, these survivors will either pay for private therapy or suffer in silence. Why should these survivors suffer in silence, in fact, why should anyone suffer in silence? Unfortunately, the message from the Department of Health is that people should do just that. I wonder if this ignorance and prejudice will ever change but I, for one, refuse to stay in the shadows.