Opinion Former Video

Improving the mental health system

This new report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Work outlines the values, practices and evidence that should be at the heart of mental health support.

Every year 25% of adults will experience a mental health problem. Many more of us will be affected as a friend or a family member.

Great strides have been made in the last decade to undo the stigma around mental health.

But a new report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Work shows that despite the rhetoric, we still have a long way to go to get the excellent services we all need.

To get there, adult mental health must have genuine parity of esteem with physical health and other services for adults - in terms of funding, quality and how we develop and look after the workforce.

Currently, the mental health system across England and Wales is fragmented. It is underfunded and hard to navigate.

There are still too many professional silos and disjointed services for people in distress that would not be tolerated in physical healthcare.

Reliable early help and ongoing support is hard to get. More people are reaching crisis point leading to rising compulsory admissions and pressure on hospital beds.

Too often, people don’t get the holistic support they need and they feel professionals don’t listen closely enough to their own views about their problems and how to solve them.

Many complex factors can contribute to mental distress, including trauma and psychological, financial and social problems.  These can be recent or have their roots in early life. Addressing these is not like fixing a broken arm. But a narrow medical approach continues to dominate. This needs to change.

Our report is not a blueprint for services - it is a statement of values, practices and evidence that should be at the heart of mental health support.

This should be person-centred and co-produced with the service user shaping their own journey of recovery, involving family and friends if they choose.

Support should be available early, easily and quickly, with a focus on prevention rather than waiting for a crisis

All professionals need to work together to respect and understand each other’s distinctive roles to make sure services are easy to use.

And more people with mental health problems should have access to social work.

Social workers are trained to understand mental health needs in the context of a person’s whole life, their family and personal history. Social workers can get alongside individuals and their families to help them make lasting changes and overcome barriers to recovery.

The unique contribution social workers can make to mental health care must be realised if we are to improve our whole mental health system.

To read our full list of recommendations, download our report at www.basw.co.uk


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