I thought it might be helpful to see a transcript of the interview, as I believe the programme is not available on catch-up TV.
Housing, debt and welfare, all social issues that are claimed to be leading one in two people with mental health problems to have felt suicidal. The charity Mind is today warning that the type of local services that help those very people are under threat from spending cuts, despite the government saying it has increased mental health funding to an estimated #11.7 billion last year. More than 1,500 people who have used mental health services in the last two years were surveyed on behalf of Mind. Out of those: 41% said they had considered or attempted suicide because of financial or housing pressures. 29% said they fear losing welfare benefits. Losing their job or difficulties at work was the reason 29% of people said they had considered taking their own life. And a further 29% said a relationship breakdown was a contributory factor. Also today, the news people with eating disorders in England are having to wait up to six months to see a mental health specialist. BBC News has found that in some parts of the country waiting times have increased by more than 120% over the past four years. The average wait was 182 days in Manchester but about 20 days in Dorset, Dudley and north-east London. For more on both of these stories I'm joined by Professor Peter Kinderman from the British Psychological Society and joining us from our Bristol newsroom is Jane Smith who's the Chief Executive with Anorexia Bulimia Care.
Jane, people can be forgiven for forgetting that when it comes to conditions like anorexia and believe me, it is a mental health issue?
Yes, that is true. I feel we have been the Cinderella of mental health for too long. It claims the lives of more people than any other mental health condition.
So why are these waiting times a contributing factor?
You might think a six-month white is not that bad, but of course, remembering that people are very resistant to treatment, they are frightened of coming forward. There is a lot of shame and stigma still, so by the time they have reached the GP, they are often very ill indeed. It is sad, but I'm afraid not surprising. It is what we hear anecdotally pretty much every day on our helplines, sadly.
So once somebody has decided to get help, it is important that they get it quickly?
It is vital. The Nice guidelines recommend quick treatment. Early intervention and better services have to be the answer.
Peter, it was not long ago that a survey was also showing the links between financial pressures and mental health. People with mental health issues struggled to deal with finances. People who get into debt develop mental health issues, so it is all linked and all congregated. Is it therefore fair to criticise the government and say they are not doing enough?
I think it indicates how serious these problems are and how mental health care, even in the UK, a wealthy country, is an ongoing crisis. So when so many people are reporting not only that they are having suicidal thoughts, but that the relationships are breaking down and they are having difficulty in accessing care, that the mental health is so intimately related to social and economic living conditions, it is an ongoing crisis. I would not say we blame the government, but it highlights how serious it is that the government makes sure our collective mental health is protected and that mental health problems are dealt with rapidly.
Is there a pattern developing? People are facing financial concerns, and the purse is getting tight for a lot of households.
Sadly, a lot of people working in mental health did warn the government that austerity programmes and continued economic financial and employment threats to people'slivelihood would have a vicious circle effect, that as people become more psychologically unwell, it will affect performance at work and the ability to hold their lives together. That puts more pressure on services, and it spirals. We warned the government that care would have to be taken for the psychological well-being of people when we entered a period of recession. Unfortunately, that has turned out to be the case.
Can you narrow it down to a typical case and what should happen to that person and is not happening? So if somebody at home is feeling suicidal, they know they have mental health issues and are struggling to deal with some things in life, what help should be available to them that is not?
People should immediately have access not only to front line staff that know how to respond to their needs, but also to experts who can help them follow-up but only with the psychological well-being, but practical solutions to the everyday problems, like debt advisers and people with housing advice, and people who can advise on relationships. They need practical help and they need psychological and mental health help. Even when people have serious mental health problems, we have heard that taking help takes a long time and it is difficult. At the same time, people need practical and even financial help to help them tied over the very real problems they have. Unfortunately, in both the social and psychological aspects of their lives, people are having to wait before they get, on occasion, poor quality services. I am glad the government has put money into mental health services, but they need to keep on investing.
Jane, what are the experiences of those living with eating disorders? What are they saying about services?
Too slow, not joined up enough. The therapeutic side is important, but so is the medical monitoring. ABC has written the first course to train GPs to spot the signs early. Patients are also saying that family members, be it parents or partners, but because of course, adults have eating disorders, are not kept in the loop and there is often no signposting to organisations like ourselves that could help them while they wait. That is crucial, because suicide and heart failure are the greatest killers of those with eating disorders. These are physical bonuses as well mental health issues. So people need practical help with food, diet and eating, which is lacking.
Jane Smith and Professor Peter Kinderman, many thanks. If you want help or advice, you can go to the BBC action line website. You're watching BBC News. ...