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The fight for equal access to mental healthcare

The fight for equal access to mental healthcare

The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day (10th October) is ‘Mental health in an unequal world’. The 2021 campaign is all about raising awareness of the urgent actions that must be taken to ensure everyone has access to the mental healthcare they need.

There’s currently a big gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’, according to the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH). Between 75% and 95% of people with mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries are unable to access mental health services at all.

However, things aren’t always much better in higher income countries, where money spent by governments on mental healthcare often lags behind what they spend on physical healthcare. This means many people still don’t get the support and treatment they need.

In the UK, we’re lucky to have a national health service that provides free mental health services which are available to all. However, even here there’s a lack of investment in these services, along with inequalities in access and recovery rates for people from certain groups.

We all saw how the pandemic affected different people in different ways – including the effects of lockdown. For example, someone living in a house with plenty of room and access to outdoor space will have been better able to take care of their mental health than someone who was living and working in a tiny, crowded flat.

As well as inequalities between the so-called ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, there’s evidence of inequalities due to ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity. A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that three quarters of people from the LGBTQ+ community reported adverse mental health due to the stress of the pandemic, compared to half of cisgender, heterosexual people.

Recent data from the NHS’s IAPT programme shows that members of the BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities with mental health problems are less likely to access therapy, less likely to have good improvement rates, and more likely to report negative experiences of therapy.

It’s really important that mental healthcare systems and providers take positive action to identify the causes of inequalities in mental wellbeing, and find ways to make treatment such as CBT more accessible, engaging and effective for everyone. An essential part of this is talking with people from all groups and walks of life, to uncover what they need in terms of support – and what might stop them from accessing it.

ieso is already taking steps in this direction, both as an individual organisation and as part of the wider mental healthcare community. We’re always looking at how we can adapt the way we develop, promote and deliver our services to make them as inclusive as possible.

“We’ve made it our mission at ieso to address the global risk in mental ill health by creating breakthroughs in how mental health is understood and treated, so that people everywhere have the opportunity to feel better.” Shazna Khanom, UK Clinical Director, ieso

Sharing best practice approaches, data, knowledge and practical ideas will also ensure more people in the UK can enjoy good mental health – and we’re committed to doing this through partnerships and links with government and other healthcare providers.

We also work with our therapists to make sure they’re ready to provide the best support for all patients. Recently, for example, we’ve organised a series of workshops to help our clinicians understand the barriers and concerns people from various minority groups face, including those from gender and sexual minorities.

You can read more about the global ‘Mental health in an unequal world’ campaign here.

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