Almost a quarter of people who tried to access mental health support in recent weeks have failed to get any help, research suggests.
Cancelled appointments and difficulty getting through to their GP or Community Mental Health Team are thought to be the main problems, although there are reports that individuals are being turned away by crisis services while some have had problems accessing digital alternatives.
Mind, the mental health charity, surveyed more than 8,000 individuals – and it found that almost a quarter of people have not been able to access mental health services in the last two weeks.
Mind said the issue poses serious questions for health and government officials as it points to a potential spike in suicide and self-harm.
The NHS has urged the public to still come forward for help, amid concerns that seriously ill people are avoiding seeking support because of coronavirus. Mind found that almost half of those who didn’t seek help for their mental health were worried their problems were not important enough given the wider crisis, with others saying it was unclear whether it was safe or responsible to attend a face to face appointment.
A spokesman for the charity said that its services have seen “unprecedented” demand, with more than a million people accessing its online information on coronavirus and mental health, and a surge in the number of people seeking support through its online community since the crisis began.
Mind Chief Executive Paul Farmer said that it is “deeply concerning” that people are struggling to get the help that they need.
He said: “Evidence shows that when people do not get support early enough, they end up in crisis.
“People with mental health problems have been hit hard by the current situation. We are particularly worried that some people are being discharged too early from hospital, while others have been left languishing on mental health wards, because of the current limited the availability of community support. Being sent home at the wrong time can delay recovery and, at worst, puts people at high risk of suicide.
|Reason for problems accessing|
mental health services during May
|Difficulty getting in contact with GP|
or Community Mental Health Team
|Feeling unable or uncomfortable|
using phone or video call technology
|Appointments being cancelled||22%|
|Unsure if it was safe or responsible|
to attend an appointment in person
|Did not think their issues were|
“A drop in the number of referrals to NHS mental health services, including those for children, is worrying when we know the need is high. It has never been more important that people are encouraged to access mental healthcare that is timely, appropriate and available at the point of need. If not, we are storing up more complex problems for the future.”