Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Warning over depression treatment

The plight of those suffering from depression has been highlighted by top psychiatrists

Some children with depression and other mental health problems are getting no treatment at all, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists has warned.

Professor Simon Wessely said that some youngsters with mental health issues get "literally no" treatment.

Meanwhile seven in 10 people with common mental illnesses get no treatment, he said in his first interview since taking up the post in June.

Prof Wessely told the Guardian that the nation would not tolerate it if these figures related to cancer care.

He said that in some areas patients are routinely waiting for up to two years for care.

He told the newspaper: "I'm giving a talk soon. I'm thinking of starting it: 'So, we have a problem in cancer service at the moment. Only 30% of people with cancer are getting treatment, so 70% of them don't get any treatment for their cancer at all and it's not even recognised.' And there will be a pause and I will say, 'OK - I'm not talking about cancer, but if I was, you'd be absolutely appalled and you would be screaming from the rooftops'.

"People are still routinely waiting for - well, we don't really know, but certainly more than 18 weeks, possibly up to two years, for their treatment and that is routine in some parts of the country.

"Some children aren't getting any treatment at all - literally none. That's what's happening."

He said a larger proportion of people with severe mental illness have access to treatment but the figure still only stands at around 65%, he said.

Prof Wessely said that although the NHS has an aspiration to deliver parity of esteem between physical and mental health services "the gap is now so big and yet there is no more money".

He added: "If people really want true parity in the sense of actual 90% of mental health patients are treated within 18 weeks, just like they are for other disorders, that is going to have to mean money will have to move from acute to mental health. Genuine money.

"As there is no more money, that would mean significant losses in other sectors."

The news comes after the death of actor Robin Williams who was found hanged in his bedroom at his California home earlier this week.

The Mrs Doubtfire star was discovered by his personal assistant on Monday morning after he failed to answer his door.

Williams, 63, had grappled with severe depression. He had also battled addiction for decades and checked himself back into rehab last month.

But his representative said at the time that he had not fallen off the wagon and was ensuring that he focused on his commitment to stay sober.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "It is essential that anyone with a mental health problem gets the support they need. That's why we've invested over £450 million in improving access to psychological treatments and we've asked NHS England to introduce access and waiting time standards for mental health from next year.

"We're also appointing a task force to look at how we can make sure every child with a mental health problem gets the high quality support they deserve."

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