Sheffield woman speaks of her struggle to access city's mental health services

Access to NHS funded psychological therapy has improved over recent years but there are still long waiting lists in the region and effectiveness can be unpredictable.

By Lisa Wong
Friday, 24th January 2020, 1:56 pm

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, or BACP, believe that the waiting times are ‘unacceptable’, which forces many into trying to face problems alone.

Individuals are supposed to be seen for treatment within a six week target, however, an ex service user in Sheffield has stated how it was certainly not the case for her, nor did it prove very effective.

Sara Buckle, aged 25, said: “It felt like a very long wait - months. When I was actually seen, the man who did my assessment made me feel really uncomfortable. He made me not want to talk at all, which I thought was contradictory to therapy. After that, I was just sent to a sort of group thing which did not help me. I think I just learned to cope by myself in the end.”

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PICTURE POSED BY MODEL A woman showing signs of depression.

The requirement for timely services is important, as it has been estimated that one in four people experience mental health issues each year.

According to the NHS, mental health is the largest single cause of disability in the UK - costing £105 billion a year, described as ‘roughly the cost of the entire NHS’.

NHS England’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, or IAPT, is a programme of talking therapies used to help treat depression and anxiety disorders.

It was established in 2008, as part of the ‘five year forward view for mental health’, which was set out in the NHS’s long term plan - a commitment to transform mental health care in England.

Although the 2018-2019 annual report for IAPT states that of 582,556 referred people who completed a course of treatment, 99 per cent waited up to 18 weeks for treatment.

Head of policy at BACP, Suky Kaur, said:“We’ve campaigned heavily for the appropriate provision and access to counselling for many years, we acknowledge there are pressures on the system, which poses difficulties to getting people the ‘right’ help when they need it.”