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Good News, Bad News Creating an Untenable Situation for Mental Health

First, the good news. This article is from Australia, but I feel fairly confident that we’d see similar results in other countries.

More and more Australians are being diagnosed with depression and anxiety. But this doesn’t mean Australians’ mental health is worsening.

What they did was look back at not just rates of diagnosis, but they also compared surveys that listed out some of the symptoms without a diagnosis, and what they found is that yes, more and more people are being diagnosed, but the number of people reporting the symptoms of depression is about the same.

Why is this good news?

That means that more and more people are recognizing the symptoms, and willing to go in search of help and a diagnosis. This tells me that our efforts at educating people are working. It also tells me that our efforts to reduce the stigma attached to being diagnosed and trying to get treatment are working.

But, at the same time I’m feeling good about that kind of news, if we continue reading the article we come to the bad news, and I’m also I’m devastated by stories like this one from the UK:

Gill assumed Lucy would quickly receive treatment. Instead, she was told that her daughter faced a six to eight-month wait. ‘A nurse apologised and said they knew Lucy was in a bad way, but they were swamped,’ says Gill, 52. ‘When my husband happened to mention he had private healthcare through work, they said we should take that option.’

A month later, while waiting for her first session with a private psychiatrist, Lucy took an overdose, before texting her parents the plaintive message: ‘I’m really sorry. I can’t do this. I want to end it.’ An ambulance was called, and the Waite family’s world was shattered. ‘Lucy apologised, but said she still wanted to die,’ Gill recalls, tearfully. ‘I felt I’d failed her.’

Lucy is lucky. She, eventually, was able to get private care, and seems to be doing better. Even with that option, it was over a month before she got in to see a psychiatrist. Many, many people around the world don’t even have that option. They’re on the 6-8 month, or longer, waiting list. And those are the slightly less lucky ones. Some aren’t able to get treatment, period. It”s simply not available.

We have been doing a good job getting people to talk about mental health issues, removing the stigma attached to them, and helping people recognize that they do not have to suffer silently, but now comes the hard job. We also have to push for the necessary resources to be sure that all these folks being honest about their affliction, can actually get help. There’s no quick fix for that, and no Twitter hashtag that’s going to make that happen. It’s going to take pushing for funding, for research into new treatment options, for support to family and loved ones who are navigating the treatment system with their loved one, changes in our societal responses to mental health issues, training for police other first response professionals, and prison systems, drug testing and research, and most of all the collective effort of thousands of mental health advocates.

In short, it’s going to take a lot of hard work to make a lot of hard decisions.

Or we can continue encouraging people to not be ashamed to seek out help that doesn’t exist for them. What a massive disappointment that would be.


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