Tag Archives: crisis

Is help finally at hand for suicide crisis on America’s farms?

In early May, Kansas farmer John Blaske is waiting for the rain to stop so he can begin planting. From the front door of his farmhouse, a green yard decorated with bird feeders slopes down to a series of fields where the corn will be planted. Beyond the fields, there’s a tree line and a small bridge with a creek running below. It’s peaceful here, and mostly quiet, except for the sound of the occasional car or tractor, or the cows calling from the paddock.

The waiting makes him restless, he tells me. And it’s not just the rain. He’s also waiting desperately for the opportunity to talk to fellow agrarians or to legislators about the stress, depression and suicidal ideation he experiences as a farmer.

We have been talking by phone for well over a year now, and last fall, when the summer heat was just beginning to lift, I visited his farm in the tiny town of Onaga.

My conversations with Blaske became part of a story, published in December in the Guardian, about the high rate of farmer suicide. According to a 2016 report, people who work in agriculture take their lives at a rate higher than any other occupation, and at twice the rate of military veterans.

The story reached the computer screens of over a million readers, even landing on the desks of legislators. But Blaske himself could not access it. Without a computer or the internet, he was unaware of theconversations, media coverage, and legislation provoked in part by his story.

I’ve done my best to keep him updated, with phone calls and print-outs of articles mailed to his home. But behind the scenes of this story is a stark digital divide, which highlights the isolation experienced by rural America and the feeling that – even in a farm bill year – farmers have been forgotten.

I’ve got good news about bad news

John Blaske at home. Blaske doesn’t have a computer or Internet access, but he’s keen to talk about mental health with other farmers.


John Blaske at home. Blaske doesn’t have a computer or internet access, but he’s keen to talk about mental health with other farmers. Photograph: Audra Mulkern for the Guardian

I’ve become fond of the phrase, “I’ve got good news about bad news,” and I’ve been saying it a lot lately.

Just weeks after the article was published, Washington state representative and fourth generation farmer JT Wilcox immediately responded by introducing a farmer suicide prevention bill into the state legislature.

It passed unanimously through both the House and Senate, and just three months after the article was published, it was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee.

And recently, two bills aimed at addressing the farmer suicide crisis (The Stress Act and The Farmers First Act), were introduced into the US House and Senate for inclusion into the 2018 federal farm bill.

Both bills would reauthorize the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN), a program which would provide federal grants to create crisis lines, provide counseling for farmers and train rural behavioral health professionals.

Both of these bills now have strong bipartisan support, as well as endorsements from a slew of progressive and conservative rural and farmer organizations. One key difference is that only the Farmers First Act comes with funding – a proposed $ 50m over five years.

As arduous as it is to pass federal legislation, it’s all the more so within something as politically divisive as the $ 867bn farm bill. While some farm groups voiced support for the House version of the farm bill, many farm and rural organizations loudly opposed it, arguing that while it contains some positive elements (including language from the Stress Act), the overall bill would harm family farmers by gutting conservation programs and local food initiatives, decreasing access to credit for small and mid-sized farms, and failing to provide a safety net for struggling farmers.

Indeed, the farm economy is in crisis. Net farm income has decreased by 50% since 2013, and recently, the farmer’s share of the US food dollar fell to 14.8 cents, the lowest since the USDA began tracking the statistic in 1993. Milk prices are so far below the cost of production that dairy cooperative Agri-Mark recently sent out suicide hotline numbers along with the milk checks. Add in the Trump Administration’s see-sawing statements about a trade war with China, which would impact up to 94 agricultural products, and the potential for financial losses is being felt industry-wide.

Because of the plight of farmers, there is increased scrutiny on the farm bill. On 18 May, the House voted down its final version of the farm bill, with 30 Republicans joining 183 Democrats in defeating the bill. While the House will attempt to rebuild the bill and bring it back for a vote in late June, public focus will largely shift to the Senate, which is drafting its own farm bill, projected to be released in June.

Still, there remains hope among farmers and advocates who have long worked to advance suicide prevention resources. “I am more hopeful than I have been in my 38 years of working in this arena that behavioral health supports will be funded as part of the farm bill,” wrote Dr Mike Rosmann, an Iowa farmer and psychologist, in an email.

‘Some people can’t hang on that long’

Ginnie Peters lost her husband to suicide in 2011. This is his working bench.


Ginnie Peters lost her husband to suicide in 2011. This is his working bench. Photograph: Audra Mulkren for the Guardian

When I call Blaske to update him on the legislation, he says the provision of extra federal grants for crisis lines and counselling would be a positive outcome that would provide life-saving resources to farmers. But he says struggling farmers can’t wait. “Some people can’t hang on that long,” he says. “I mean, farmers are out there busting their butts just trying to make a nickel or a dollar or a dime.”

If there has been any criticism of farmer suicide legislation, it is that it doesn’t address the root causes of the behavioral health issues sweeping across farm country, including the negative farm economy. A recent Mother Jones article was titled: “We wouldn’t need the suicide hotline if dairy farmers were getting paid what they deserve.”

But while economic conditions are absolutely part of why farmer suicide rates are so high, other contributing factors exist, including rural isolation, unpredictable weather, lack of rural health services, and a stigma surrounding mental health issues. Thus, even if the farm economy improves, people working in agriculture will benefit from a system of behavioral health resources.

“Agricultural behavioral health assistance is needed more than at any time since the 1980s, and will continue to be needed as an investment in healthy agricultural producers,” wrote Rosmann in a 4 May article in Iowa Farmer Today. He maintains that while natural resources are often considered elements such as topsoil, water, or seeds, farmers are the most critical agricultural natural resource we have. As such, he says, the health and wellbeing of farmers is essential to a functional food and agriculture system.

Matt Perdue, a fifth generation farmer from North Dakota and the government relations representative for NFU, says the farmer suicide legislation addresses an immediate need for the group’s 200,000 members. He also says the need for such support goes beyond the current farm financial crisis.

“When we look at the farm economy as a whole, we’re not taking into account specific situations,” says Perdue. “A farmer might be experiencing severe drought or getting hit with a hailstorm while the rest of the economy is strong. The industry has so much uncertainty in it, so we need to be providing mental health support to farmers and ranchers at all times.”

‘While economic conditions are part of why suicide rates are so high, other contributing factors exist.’


‘While economic conditions are part of why suicide rates are so high, other contributing factors exist.’ Photograph: Audra Mulkern for the Guardian

On 9 May, NFU’s Roger Johnson sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue urging him to address the crisis. “We call on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to serve a critical role in providing support to farmers and ranchers in crisis,” he wrote. He notes that net farm income is projected to drop by 6.7% in 2018 (to negative $ 1,316), the lowest since 2006, and the fact that 60% of rural residents live in areas with a shortage of mental health professionals.

“This is something we think requires a holistic response,” says Perdue. “Federal legislation is just one way to address the issue. We also need to be talking about this at the state level and the local level. It’s going to take as many different avenues as we can find.”

A simple idea: a big picnic

In Kansas, Blaske has been thinking about those different avenues. “I think that we need to have get-togethers – like a big picnic, where farmers let their feelings out and learn to not hold everything inside, because that’s when it all blows up,” he says.

It’s a simple but effective idea, and one that echoes the farmer gatherings through the 1980s farm crisis, when farmers took to community spaces to organize and take care of one another.

During that time, Dr Rosmann took on the role of gathering Iowa farmers and their families. Upwards of 200 hundred farmers would gather in a church or school for community prayer, candid conversation about their struggles, and various presentations: an attorney explaining the stages of bankruptcy, a banker discussing financial management, Rosmann speaking about stress and behavioral health.

When I tell Blaske about Rosmann’s gatherings from years ago, he says: “I’d go in a heartbeat. But so far, the opportunity hasn’t been presented. Nobody’s ever called and asked me to do anything like that, but that’s what I’d love to do.”

So he waits – to begin planting, for a phone call, for the mail, for something to change. “You asked me what I hoped would come from this story,” he said to me on the phone recently. “I want to be seen. I want to be heard.” Then his voice broke, and he abruptly finished our call.

‘I felt like farming killed my husband’

Ginnie Peters at home.


Ginnie Peters at home. Her husband, Matt, a farmer, died of suicide in 2011 at the age of 55. Photograph: Audra Mulkren/Audra Mulkern

Last October, I sat at a kitchen table in Iowa and listened to Ginnie Peters talk about her husband, Matt, a farmer who died of suicide in 2011 at the age of 55. As we spoke, she thumbed through the journal she has kept since Matt died. The entries are short and poem-like:

You were in my dreams again last night. We were out in the front yard in the dark.

The spruce tree has been planted where the oak tree had been.

I will love you forever, guy.

“For a long time I felt like farming killed my husband,” Ginnie said.

Outside the door of their farmhouse was a cistern where Matt would sit before coming inside for the night, and a young ash tree with branches still low enough to reach. Ginnie would tell him to touch the tree, to leave all his stress there in the leaves. They kept a crisis hotline number by the phone throughout the hard years of the 1980s, but by 2011, “when Matt really needed it, it was gone”.

Recently, Senator Joni Ernst – a sponsor of the Farmers First Act – called Ginnie to talk about the federal legislation. “I’m grateful that someone is finally paying attention,” Ginnie told me on the phone. “This could be the difference between life and death for many.”

“We were able to get through the 1980s farm crisis, but I couldn’t get through my farmer in crisis,” Ginnie told Ernst. “If the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network had been funded in 2008, Matt might still be alive.”

Is help finally at hand for suicide crisis on America’s farms?

In early May, Kansas farmer John Blaske is waiting for the rain to stop so he can begin planting. From the front door of his farmhouse, a green yard decorated with bird feeders slopes down to a series of fields where the corn will be planted. Beyond the fields, there’s a tree line and a small bridge with a creek running below. It’s peaceful here, and mostly quiet, except for the sound of the occasional car or tractor, or the cows calling from the paddock.

The waiting makes him restless, he tells me. And it’s not just the rain. He’s also waiting desperately for the opportunity to talk to fellow agrarians or to legislators about the stress, depression and suicidal ideation he experiences as a farmer.

We have been talking by phone for well over a year now, and last fall, when the summer heat was just beginning to lift, I visited his farm in the tiny town of Onaga.

My conversations with Blaske became part of a story, published in December in the Guardian, about the high rate of farmer suicide. According to a 2016 report, people who work in agriculture take their lives at a rate higher than any other occupation, and at twice the rate of military veterans.

The story reached the computer screens of over a million readers, even landing on the desks of legislators. But Blaske himself could not access it. Without a computer or the internet, he was unaware of theconversations, media coverage, and legislation provoked in part by his story.

I’ve done my best to keep him updated, with phone calls and print-outs of articles mailed to his home. But behind the scenes of this story is a stark digital divide, which highlights the isolation experienced by rural America and the feeling that – even in a farm bill year – farmers have been forgotten.

I’ve got good news about bad news

John Blaske at home. Blaske doesn’t have a computer or Internet access, but he’s keen to talk about mental health with other farmers.


John Blaske at home. Blaske doesn’t have a computer or internet access, but he’s keen to talk about mental health with other farmers. Photograph: Audra Mulkern for the Guardian

I’ve become fond of the phrase, “I’ve got good news about bad news,” and I’ve been saying it a lot lately.

Just weeks after the article was published, Washington state representative and fourth generation farmer JT Wilcox immediately responded by introducing a farmer suicide prevention bill into the state legislature.

It passed unanimously through both the House and Senate, and just three months after the article was published, it was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee.

And recently, two bills aimed at addressing the farmer suicide crisis (The Stress Act and The Farmers First Act), were introduced into the US House and Senate for inclusion into the 2018 federal farm bill.

Both bills would reauthorize the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN), a program which would provide federal grants to create crisis lines, provide counseling for farmers and train rural behavioral health professionals.

Both of these bills now have strong bipartisan support, as well as endorsements from a slew of progressive and conservative rural and farmer organizations. One key difference is that only the Farmers First Act comes with funding – a proposed $ 50m over five years.

As arduous as it is to pass federal legislation, it’s all the more so within something as politically divisive as the $ 867bn farm bill. While some farm groups voiced support for the House version of the farm bill, many farm and rural organizations loudly opposed it, arguing that while it contains some positive elements (including language from the Stress Act), the overall bill would harm family farmers by gutting conservation programs and local food initiatives, decreasing access to credit for small and mid-sized farms, and failing to provide a safety net for struggling farmers.

Indeed, the farm economy is in crisis. Net farm income has decreased by 50% since 2013, and recently, the farmer’s share of the US food dollar fell to 14.8 cents, the lowest since the USDA began tracking the statistic in 1993. Milk prices are so far below the cost of production that dairy cooperative Agri-Mark recently sent out suicide hotline numbers along with the milk checks. Add in the Trump Administration’s see-sawing statements about a trade war with China, which would impact up to 94 agricultural products, and the potential for financial losses is being felt industry-wide.

Because of the plight of farmers, there is increased scrutiny on the farm bill. On 18 May, the House voted down its final version of the farm bill, with 30 Republicans joining 183 Democrats in defeating the bill. While the House will attempt to rebuild the bill and bring it back for a vote in late June, public focus will largely shift to the Senate, which is drafting its own farm bill, projected to be released in June.

Still, there remains hope among farmers and advocates who have long worked to advance suicide prevention resources. “I am more hopeful than I have been in my 38 years of working in this arena that behavioral health supports will be funded as part of the farm bill,” wrote Dr Mike Rosmann, an Iowa farmer and psychologist, in an email.

‘Some people can’t hang on that long’

Ginnie Peters lost her husband to suicide in 2011. This is his working bench.


Ginnie Peters lost her husband to suicide in 2011. This is his working bench. Photograph: Audra Mulkren for the Guardian

When I call Blaske to update him on the legislation, he says the provision of extra federal grants for crisis lines and counselling would be a positive outcome that would provide life-saving resources to farmers. But he says struggling farmers can’t wait. “Some people can’t hang on that long,” he says. “I mean, farmers are out there busting their butts just trying to make a nickel or a dollar or a dime.”

If there has been any criticism of farmer suicide legislation, it is that it doesn’t address the root causes of the behavioral health issues sweeping across farm country, including the negative farm economy. A recent Mother Jones article was titled: “We wouldn’t need the suicide hotline if dairy farmers were getting paid what they deserve.”

But while economic conditions are absolutely part of why farmer suicide rates are so high, other contributing factors exist, including rural isolation, unpredictable weather, lack of rural health services, and a stigma surrounding mental health issues. Thus, even if the farm economy improves, people working in agriculture will benefit from a system of behavioral health resources.

“Agricultural behavioral health assistance is needed more than at any time since the 1980s, and will continue to be needed as an investment in healthy agricultural producers,” wrote Rosmann in a 4 May article in Iowa Farmer Today. He maintains that while natural resources are often considered elements such as topsoil, water, or seeds, farmers are the most critical agricultural natural resource we have. As such, he says, the health and wellbeing of farmers is essential to a functional food and agriculture system.

Matt Perdue, a fifth generation farmer from North Dakota and the government relations representative for NFU, says the farmer suicide legislation addresses an immediate need for the group’s 200,000 members. He also says the need for such support goes beyond the current farm financial crisis.

“When we look at the farm economy as a whole, we’re not taking into account specific situations,” says Perdue. “A farmer might be experiencing severe drought or getting hit with a hailstorm while the rest of the economy is strong. The industry has so much uncertainty in it, so we need to be providing mental health support to farmers and ranchers at all times.”

‘While economic conditions are part of why suicide rates are so high, other contributing factors exist.’


‘While economic conditions are part of why suicide rates are so high, other contributing factors exist.’ Photograph: Audra Mulkern for the Guardian

On 9 May, NFU’s Roger Johnson sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue urging him to address the crisis. “We call on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to serve a critical role in providing support to farmers and ranchers in crisis,” he wrote. He notes that net farm income is projected to drop by 6.7% in 2018 (to negative $ 1,316), the lowest since 2006, and the fact that 60% of rural residents live in areas with a shortage of mental health professionals.

“This is something we think requires a holistic response,” says Perdue. “Federal legislation is just one way to address the issue. We also need to be talking about this at the state level and the local level. It’s going to take as many different avenues as we can find.”

A simple idea: a big picnic

In Kansas, Blaske has been thinking about those different avenues. “I think that we need to have get-togethers – like a big picnic, where farmers let their feelings out and learn to not hold everything inside, because that’s when it all blows up,” he says.

It’s a simple but effective idea, and one that echoes the farmer gatherings through the 1980s farm crisis, when farmers took to community spaces to organize and take care of one another.

During that time, Dr Rosmann took on the role of gathering Iowa farmers and their families. Upwards of 200 hundred farmers would gather in a church or school for community prayer, candid conversation about their struggles, and various presentations: an attorney explaining the stages of bankruptcy, a banker discussing financial management, Rosmann speaking about stress and behavioral health.

When I tell Blaske about Rosmann’s gatherings from years ago, he says: “I’d go in a heartbeat. But so far, the opportunity hasn’t been presented. Nobody’s ever called and asked me to do anything like that, but that’s what I’d love to do.”

So he waits – to begin planting, for a phone call, for the mail, for something to change. “You asked me what I hoped would come from this story,” he said to me on the phone recently. “I want to be seen. I want to be heard.” Then his voice broke, and he abruptly finished our call.

‘I felt like farming killed my husband’

Ginnie Peters at home.


Ginnie Peters at home. Her husband, Matt, a farmer, died of suicide in 2011 at the age of 55. Photograph: Audra Mulkren/Audra Mulkern

Last October, I sat at a kitchen table in Iowa and listened to Ginnie Peters talk about her husband, Matt, a farmer who died of suicide in 2011 at the age of 55. As we spoke, she thumbed through the journal she has kept since Matt died. The entries are short and poem-like:

You were in my dreams again last night. We were out in the front yard in the dark.

The spruce tree has been planted where the oak tree had been.

I will love you forever, guy.

“For a long time I felt like farming killed my husband,” Ginnie said.

Outside the door of their farmhouse was a cistern where Matt would sit before coming inside for the night, and a young ash tree with branches still low enough to reach. Ginnie would tell him to touch the tree, to leave all his stress there in the leaves. They kept a crisis hotline number by the phone throughout the hard years of the 1980s, but by 2011, “when Matt really needed it, it was gone”.

Recently, Senator Joni Ernst – a sponsor of the Farmers First Act – called Ginnie to talk about the federal legislation. “I’m grateful that someone is finally paying attention,” Ginnie told me on the phone. “This could be the difference between life and death for many.”

“We were able to get through the 1980s farm crisis, but I couldn’t get through my farmer in crisis,” Ginnie told Ernst. “If the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network had been funded in 2008, Matt might still be alive.”

Government plans to tackle mental health crisis ‘will fail a generation’

Government plans to tackle the mental health crisis among young people will fail a generation who desperately need help, two committees of MPs warn today.

Proposals in a green paper to “transform” NHS mental health care for young people through maximum four-week waiting times to access help and improved support in schools will take too long to effect real change, the committees say.

In a joint report, the Commons health and social care and education select committees criticise the plans as unambitious and inadequate given the fast-rising need for care and too reliant on already overworked teachers.

“This strategy does not go far enough, which raises the very real prospect of hundreds of thousands of children missing out on getting the help they so desperately need,” said Rob Halfon, the Conservative chair of the latter committee and former education minister.

Although ministers have pledged to introduce maximum waiting times is only to be made available across up to a quarter of England by 2022-23.

“The suggested speed of delivery will leave hundreds of thousands of children with no improvements in provision for several years and with possibly worsened provision if staff leave to join trailblazer areas elsewhere,” the report says.

Children’s charities, mental health groups, teaching unions and health organisations have endorsed the committees’ findings.

Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The crisis in child mental health provision will not be ‘transformed’ by the unambitious proposals in the government’s green paper. A government that’s complacent about child poverty and relaxed about excessive testing in schools can’t claim to care about young people’s mental health.”

At least 10% of children and young people are thought to suffer from anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders or other mental health conditions. The numbers of under-18s seeking and receiving NHS care have soared over the last decade. But only a quarter who need help get it, according to Public Health England .

Javed Khan, the chief executive of Barnardo’s, said: “The government risks missing a golden opportunity to radically transform a failing mental health system. Despite Theresa May describing it as a ‘burning injustice’ that required a new approach from government, we now find ourselves sleep-walking into a deepening mental health crisis.”

The government’s plans are based on three key elements: a teacher at every school and college becoming its designated lead for mental health; help for schools from new mental health support teams; and the guarantees of help within four weeks.

However, the report adds: “The proposals put more pressure on the teaching workforce without sufficient resources.”

It highlights the negative impact of social media on young people’s mental wellbeing and suggests that pupils should be taught about the benefits and risks of social media as part of the school curriculum.

Jeremy Hunt, the health and social care secretary, last month claimed that social media companies’s alleged failure to enact safeguards to control young people’s access was “morally wrong” and “unfair on parents”.

Government plans to tackle mental health crisis ‘will fail a generation’

Government plans to tackle the mental health crisis among young people will fail a generation who desperately need help, two committees of MPs warn today.

Proposals in a green paper to “transform” NHS mental health care for young people through maximum four-week waiting times to access help and improved support in schools will take too long to effect real change, the committees say.

In a joint report, the Commons health and social care and education select committees criticise the plans as unambitious and inadequate given the fast-rising need for care and too reliant on already overworked teachers.

“This strategy does not go far enough, which raises the very real prospect of hundreds of thousands of children missing out on getting the help they so desperately need,” said Rob Halfon, the Conservative chair of the latter committee and former education minister.

Although ministers have pledged to introduce maximum waiting times is only to be made available across up to a quarter of England by 2022-23.

“The suggested speed of delivery will leave hundreds of thousands of children with no improvements in provision for several years and with possibly worsened provision if staff leave to join trailblazer areas elsewhere,” the report says.

Children’s charities, mental health groups, teaching unions and health organisations have endorsed the committees’ findings.

Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The crisis in child mental health provision will not be ‘transformed’ by the unambitious proposals in the government’s green paper. A government that’s complacent about child poverty and relaxed about excessive testing in schools can’t claim to care about young people’s mental health.”

At least 10% of children and young people are thought to suffer from anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders or other mental health conditions. The numbers of under-18s seeking and receiving NHS care have soared over the last decade. But only a quarter who need help get it, according to Public Health England .

Javed Khan, the chief executive of Barnardo’s, said: “The government risks missing a golden opportunity to radically transform a failing mental health system. Despite Theresa May describing it as a ‘burning injustice’ that required a new approach from government, we now find ourselves sleep-walking into a deepening mental health crisis.”

The government’s plans are based on three key elements: a teacher at every school and college becoming its designated lead for mental health; help for schools from new mental health support teams; and the guarantees of help within four weeks.

However, the report adds: “The proposals put more pressure on the teaching workforce without sufficient resources.”

It highlights the negative impact of social media on young people’s mental wellbeing and suggests that pupils should be taught about the benefits and risks of social media as part of the school curriculum.

Jeremy Hunt, the health and social care secretary, last month claimed that social media companies’s alleged failure to enact safeguards to control young people’s access was “morally wrong” and “unfair on parents”.

Government plans to tackle mental health crisis ‘will fail a generation’

Government plans to tackle the mental health crisis among young people will fail a generation who desperately need help, two committees of MPs warn today.

Proposals in a green paper to “transform” NHS mental health care for young people through maximum four-week waiting times to access help and improved support in schools will take too long to effect real change, the committees say.

In a joint report, the Commons health and social care and education select committees criticise the plans as unambitious and inadequate given the fast-rising need for care and too reliant on already overworked teachers.

“This strategy does not go far enough, which raises the very real prospect of hundreds of thousands of children missing out on getting the help they so desperately need,” said Rob Halfon, the Conservative chair of the latter committee and former education minister.

Although ministers have pledged to introduce maximum waiting times is only to be made available across up to a quarter of England by 2022-23.

“The suggested speed of delivery will leave hundreds of thousands of children with no improvements in provision for several years and with possibly worsened provision if staff leave to join trailblazer areas elsewhere,” the report says.

Children’s charities, mental health groups, teaching unions and health organisations have endorsed the committees’ findings.

Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The crisis in child mental health provision will not be ‘transformed’ by the unambitious proposals in the government’s green paper. A government that’s complacent about child poverty and relaxed about excessive testing in schools can’t claim to care about young people’s mental health.”

At least 10% of children and young people are thought to suffer from anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders or other mental health conditions. The numbers of under-18s seeking and receiving NHS care have soared over the last decade. But only a quarter who need help get it, according to Public Health England .

Javed Khan, the chief executive of Barnardo’s, said: “The government risks missing a golden opportunity to radically transform a failing mental health system. Despite Theresa May describing it as a ‘burning injustice’ that required a new approach from government, we now find ourselves sleep-walking into a deepening mental health crisis.”

The government’s plans are based on three key elements: a teacher at every school and college becoming its designated lead for mental health; help for schools from new mental health support teams; and the guarantees of help within four weeks.

However, the report adds: “The proposals put more pressure on the teaching workforce without sufficient resources.”

It highlights the negative impact of social media on young people’s mental wellbeing and suggests that pupils should be taught about the benefits and risks of social media as part of the school curriculum.

Jeremy Hunt, the health and social care secretary, last month claimed that social media companies’s alleged failure to enact safeguards to control young people’s access was “morally wrong” and “unfair on parents”.

‘The stigma is overwhelming’: a new doc probes America’s mental health crisis

In 1955, the number of mentally ill Americans in public psychiatric hospitals peaked at 560,000. Since then, that number has been in sharp decline: as a result of deinstitutionalization and the massive transfer of mental health funding from the federal government to states, people – especially children – suffering from psychiatric disorders and emotional disturbances have fallen through the cracks.

It’s this crisis, and the country’s inadequate response to it, that Liz Garbus’s new HBO documentary A Dangerous Son puts in sharp focus.

Through the lens of three mothers whose sons suffer from mental illness, the documentary chronicles in intimate, often painful detail the roadblocks families face in securing treatment, as well as the effects of a dismantled and under-resourced apparatus for psychiatric care in the US.

From 2009 to 2012, states slashed funding for mental health services by $ 5bn while the country got rid of almost 10% of its total number of public psychiatric hospital beds. As the author Andrew Solomon says in the film: “There is the sense that rehabilitation is a luxury.”

Garbus, the prolific documentary film-maker behind Ghosts of Abu Ghraib and What Happened, Miss Simone?, took interest in the subject after the 2012 Newtown shooting, in which 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 27 people. Though she’d previously examined institutional hurdles and the criminal justice system in documentaries like The Farm and The Execution of Wanda Jean, her hope, this time, was to empathize with the mothers who apply what she calls “herculean efforts” in order to care for their children.

[embedded content]

“There was chatter all over the internet and in water coolers: how could a mother not have gotten that son more help? How could she have let him live like that?” Garbus explains. “A woman named Liza Long wrote a blogpost that became very controversial called I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother and she talked about how desperate she had been to get help for her son, how impossible it was to get the care she needed, and how broken the system was.”

In that essay, Long, who appears in the film, wrote: “I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.”

The mothers featured in A Dangerous Son, Stacy, Edie and Cora, feel similarly. For the film, they granted Garbus unfettered access to their home lives as they perform the grinding task of caring for their children while jumping through a number of bureaucratic hoops to get them proper treatment. At one point Edie must call the cops on her son William, 15, after they meet with his social worker; in other scene Stacy’s 10-year-old son Ethan is shown punching his younger sister in the backseat of the car. Later, filming is halted so the camera crew can intervene when Ethan is physically violent toward his mother.

“One wrong word sends me into a psychotic rage,” says Long’s son, Eric. “It’s like watching myself do things I didn’t want to do.”

The specter of mass shootings like the ones in Newtown and Aurora loom large over the film, with one mother expressing fear that she’ll one day see her own son’s face on the news as an example of a child who didn’t get enough help. But Garbus emphasizes the fact that adolescents with mental illness are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violence. “The is not a film about these mass shooters,” she says, underscoring the fact that, while focus on mental health is often used as a crutch in media coverage of gun violence, stigmas about mental illness often come at the expense of families like the ones featured in the film.

“People have allowed films to be made about their children suffering from leukemia, and an enormous amount of empathy comes out and donations to childhood leukemia foundations,” Garbus notes. “But when you open your home to somebody whose child is suffering from mental illness, the stigma and the blowback can feel overwhelming.”

Edie and her two children Amy and William.


Edie and her two children Amy and William. Photograph: HBO

As noted in the film, 17 million children in the US have or have had a psychiatric disorder, but there are currently less than 60,000 beds to accommodate them. In Virginia and elsewhere, such insufficiencies have had fatal consequences: Austin “Gus” Deeds, the son of Virginia state senator Creigh Deeds, stabbed his father and killed himself just 13 hours after efforts to secure him a hospital bed fell through. Deeds, who spoke to Garbus for the film, later sued the state of Virginia for medical malpractice and criminal negligence, claiming that his son’s mental health evaluator failed to contact local hospitals that were later revealed to have available beds.

Edie, one of the mothers featured in A Dangerous Son, has had similar experiences. “Many times a case worker has no experience with mental illness or autism, and so you have to deal with somebody whose job it is to not give money for the institutionalization of the child,” she tells the Guardian. “Even when the case worker is talking to this child’s therapist who says, ‘Yes, this kid needs intensive, 24/7 care’, they’re very, very reluctant to do so.”

In remarks made in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed, Donald Trump said the White House was “committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools, and tackle the difficult issue of mental health”. But in his budget proposal for 2019, funding for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) was decreased by 30%, from $ 1.6bn to $ 1.1bn.

“There are very limited funds,” Edie says. “To be honest, the battle starts from the moment they start seeing the dollar signs.”

Garbus, whose new Trump-themed documentary series The Fourth Estate is being released later this month, says that, despite budget cuts to Medicaid and the NIMH, there are reasons for cautious optimism: last month, a group of three teenagers from Albermarle County, Virginia successfully lobbied for the state to include $ 160,000 in its 2019 budget proposal to add a mental health professional to the school system. “These are the kinds of movements that have to happen on a local level for there to be a larger shift in our attention,” she says.

Until that shift takes place, the mothers hope that the documentary will go a long way toward building empathy and understanding for their plight.

“Since he [William] was three years old, I thought I wasn’t parenting the way a good parent would,” says Edie, who co-parents and remains friends with her ex-husband. “That has followed me throughout my journey with him, even though we were a loving family. Even kids from very good homes are susceptible to mental illness and autism and other issues. And that’s a judgment people are quick to go to.”

  • A Dangerous Son premieres on HBO on 7 May with a UK date yet to be confirmed

‘The stigma is overwhelming’: a new doc probes America’s mental health crisis

In 1955, the number of mentally ill Americans in public psychiatric hospitals peaked at 560,000. Since then, that number has been in sharp decline: as a result of deinstitutionalization and the massive transfer of mental health funding from the federal government to states, people – especially children – suffering from psychiatric disorders and emotional disturbances have fallen through the cracks.

It’s this crisis, and the country’s inadequate response to it, that Liz Garbus’s new HBO documentary A Dangerous Son puts in sharp focus.

Through the lens of three mothers whose sons suffer from mental illness, the documentary chronicles in intimate, often painful detail the roadblocks families face in securing treatment, as well as the effects of a dismantled and under-resourced apparatus for psychiatric care in the US.

From 2009 to 2012, states slashed funding for mental health services by $ 5bn while the country got rid of almost 10% of its total number of public psychiatric hospital beds. As the author Andrew Solomon says in the film: “There is the sense that rehabilitation is a luxury.”

Garbus, the prolific documentary film-maker behind Ghosts of Abu Ghraib and What Happened, Miss Simone?, took interest in the subject after the 2012 Newtown shooting, in which 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 27 people. Though she’d previously examined institutional hurdles and the criminal justice system in documentaries like The Farm and The Execution of Wanda Jean, her hope, this time, was to empathize with the mothers who apply what she calls “herculean efforts” in order to care for their children.

[embedded content]

“There was chatter all over the internet and in water coolers: how could a mother not have gotten that son more help? How could she have let him live like that?” Garbus explains. “A woman named Liza Long wrote a blogpost that became very controversial called I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother and she talked about how desperate she had been to get help for her son, how impossible it was to get the care she needed, and how broken the system was.”

In that essay, Long, who appears in the film, wrote: “I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.”

The mothers featured in A Dangerous Son, Stacy, Edie and Cora, feel similarly. For the film, they granted Garbus unfettered access to their home lives as they perform the grinding task of caring for their children while jumping through a number of bureaucratic hoops to get them proper treatment. At one point Edie must call the cops on her son William, 15, after they meet with his social worker; in other scene Stacy’s 10-year-old son Ethan is shown punching his younger sister in the backseat of the car. Later, filming is halted so the camera crew can intervene when Ethan is physically violent toward his mother.

“One wrong word sends me into a psychotic rage,” says Long’s son, Eric. “It’s like watching myself do things I didn’t want to do.”

The specter of mass shootings like the ones in Newtown and Aurora loom large over the film, with one mother expressing fear that she’ll one day see her own son’s face on the news as an example of a child who didn’t get enough help. But Garbus emphasizes the fact that adolescents with mental illness are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violence. “The is not a film about these mass shooters,” she says, underscoring the fact that, while focus on mental health is often used as a crutch in media coverage of gun violence, stigmas about mental illness often come at the expense of families like the ones featured in the film.

“People have allowed films to be made about their children suffering from leukemia, and an enormous amount of empathy comes out and donations to childhood leukemia foundations,” Garbus notes. “But when you open your home to somebody whose child is suffering from mental illness, the stigma and the blowback can feel overwhelming.”

Edie and her two children Amy and William.


Edie and her two children Amy and William. Photograph: HBO

As noted in the film, 17 million children in the US have or have had a psychiatric disorder, but there are currently less than 60,000 beds to accommodate them. In Virginia and elsewhere, such insufficiencies have had fatal consequences: Austin “Gus” Deeds, the son of Virginia state senator Creigh Deeds, stabbed his father and killed himself just 13 hours after efforts to secure him a hospital bed fell through. Deeds, who spoke to Garbus for the film, later sued the state of Virginia for medical malpractice and criminal negligence, claiming that his son’s mental health evaluator failed to contact local hospitals that were later revealed to have available beds.

Edie, one of the mothers featured in A Dangerous Son, has had similar experiences. “Many times a case worker has no experience with mental illness or autism, and so you have to deal with somebody whose job it is to not give money for the institutionalization of the child,” she tells the Guardian. “Even when the case worker is talking to this child’s therapist who says, ‘Yes, this kid needs intensive, 24/7 care’, they’re very, very reluctant to do so.”

In remarks made in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed, Donald Trump said the White House was “committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools, and tackle the difficult issue of mental health”. But in his budget proposal for 2019, funding for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) was decreased by 30%, from $ 1.6bn to $ 1.1bn.

“There are very limited funds,” Edie says. “To be honest, the battle starts from the moment they start seeing the dollar signs.”

Garbus, whose new Trump-themed documentary series The Fourth Estate is being released later this month, says that, despite budget cuts to Medicaid and the NIMH, there are reasons for cautious optimism: last month, a group of three teenagers from Albermarle County, Virginia successfully lobbied for the state to include $ 160,000 in its 2019 budget proposal to add a mental health professional to the school system. “These are the kinds of movements that have to happen on a local level for there to be a larger shift in our attention,” she says.

Until that shift takes place, the mothers hope that the documentary will go a long way toward building empathy and understanding for their plight.

“Since he [William] was three years old, I thought I wasn’t parenting the way a good parent would,” says Edie, who co-parents and remains friends with her ex-husband. “That has followed me throughout my journey with him, even though we were a loving family. Even kids from very good homes are susceptible to mental illness and autism and other issues. And that’s a judgment people are quick to go to.”

  • A Dangerous Son premieres on HBO on 7 May with a UK date yet to be confirmed

‘The stigma is overwhelming’: a new doc probes America’s mental health crisis

In 1955, the number of mentally ill Americans in public psychiatric hospitals peaked at 560,000. Since then, that number has been in sharp decline: as a result of deinstitutionalization and the massive transfer of mental health funding from the federal government to states, people – especially children – suffering from psychiatric disorders and emotional disturbances have fallen through the cracks.

It’s this crisis, and the country’s inadequate response to it, that Liz Garbus’s new HBO documentary A Dangerous Son puts in sharp focus.

Through the lens of three mothers whose sons suffer from mental illness, the documentary chronicles in intimate, often painful detail the roadblocks families face in securing treatment, as well as the effects of a dismantled and under-resourced apparatus for psychiatric care in the US.

From 2009 to 2012, states slashed funding for mental health services by $ 5bn while the country got rid of almost 10% of its total number of public psychiatric hospital beds. As the author Andrew Solomon says in the film: “There is the sense that rehabilitation is a luxury.”

Garbus, the prolific documentary film-maker behind Ghosts of Abu Ghraib and What Happened, Miss Simone?, took interest in the subject after the 2012 Newtown shooting, in which 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 27 people. Though she’d previously examined institutional hurdles and the criminal justice system in documentaries like The Farm and The Execution of Wanda Jean, her hope, this time, was to empathize with the mothers who apply what she calls “herculean efforts” in order to care for their children.

[embedded content]

“There was chatter all over the internet and in water coolers: how could a mother not have gotten that son more help? How could she have let him live like that?” Garbus explains. “A woman named Liza Long wrote a blogpost that became very controversial called I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother and she talked about how desperate she had been to get help for her son, how impossible it was to get the care she needed, and how broken the system was.”

In that essay, Long, who appears in the film, wrote: “I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.”

The mothers featured in A Dangerous Son, Stacy, Edie and Cora, feel similarly. For the film, they granted Garbus unfettered access to their home lives as they perform the grinding task of caring for their children while jumping through a number of bureaucratic hoops to get them proper treatment. At one point Edie must call the cops on her son William, 15, after they meet with his social worker; in other scene Stacy’s 10-year-old son Ethan is shown punching his younger sister in the backseat of the car. Later, filming is halted so the camera crew can intervene when Ethan is physically violent toward his mother.

“One wrong word sends me into a psychotic rage,” says Long’s son, Eric. “It’s like watching myself do things I didn’t want to do.”

The specter of mass shootings like the ones in Newtown and Aurora loom large over the film, with one mother expressing fear that she’ll one day see her own son’s face on the news as an example of a child who didn’t get enough help. But Garbus emphasizes the fact that adolescents with mental illness are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violence. “The is not a film about these mass shooters,” she says, underscoring the fact that, while focus on mental health is often used as a crutch in media coverage of gun violence, stigmas about mental illness often come at the expense of families like the ones featured in the film.

“People have allowed films to be made about their children suffering from leukemia, and an enormous amount of empathy comes out and donations to childhood leukemia foundations,” Garbus notes. “But when you open your home to somebody whose child is suffering from mental illness, the stigma and the blowback can feel overwhelming.”

Edie and her two children Amy and William.


Edie and her two children Amy and William. Photograph: HBO

As noted in the film, 17 million children in the US have or have had a psychiatric disorder, but there are currently less than 60,000 beds to accommodate them. In Virginia and elsewhere, such insufficiencies have had fatal consequences: Austin “Gus” Deeds, the son of Virginia state senator Creigh Deeds, stabbed his father and killed himself just 13 hours after efforts to secure him a hospital bed fell through. Deeds, who spoke to Garbus for the film, later sued the state of Virginia for medical malpractice and criminal negligence, claiming that his son’s mental health evaluator failed to contact local hospitals that were later revealed to have available beds.

Edie, one of the mothers featured in A Dangerous Son, has had similar experiences. “Many times a case worker has no experience with mental illness or autism, and so you have to deal with somebody whose job it is to not give money for the institutionalization of the child,” she tells the Guardian. “Even when the case worker is talking to this child’s therapist who says, ‘Yes, this kid needs intensive, 24/7 care’, they’re very, very reluctant to do so.”

In remarks made in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed, Donald Trump said the White House was “committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools, and tackle the difficult issue of mental health”. But in his budget proposal for 2019, funding for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) was decreased by 30%, from $ 1.6bn to $ 1.1bn.

“There are very limited funds,” Edie says. “To be honest, the battle starts from the moment they start seeing the dollar signs.”

Garbus, whose new Trump-themed documentary series The Fourth Estate is being released later this month, says that, despite budget cuts to Medicaid and the NIMH, there are reasons for cautious optimism: last month, a group of three teenagers from Albermarle County, Virginia successfully lobbied for the state to include $ 160,000 in its 2019 budget proposal to add a mental health professional to the school system. “These are the kinds of movements that have to happen on a local level for there to be a larger shift in our attention,” she says.

Until that shift takes place, the mothers hope that the documentary will go a long way toward building empathy and understanding for their plight.

“Since he [William] was three years old, I thought I wasn’t parenting the way a good parent would,” says Edie, who co-parents and remains friends with her ex-husband. “That has followed me throughout my journey with him, even though we were a loving family. Even kids from very good homes are susceptible to mental illness and autism and other issues. And that’s a judgment people are quick to go to.”

  • A Dangerous Son premieres on HBO on 7 May with a UK date yet to be confirmed

‘The stigma is overwhelming’: a new doc probes America’s mental health crisis

In 1955, the number of mentally ill Americans in public psychiatric hospitals peaked at 560,000. Since then, that number has been in sharp decline: as a result of deinstitutionalization and the massive transfer of mental health funding from the federal government to states, people – especially children – suffering from psychiatric disorders and emotional disturbances have fallen through the cracks.

It’s this crisis, and the country’s inadequate response to it, that Liz Garbus’s new HBO documentary A Dangerous Son puts in sharp focus.

Through the lens of three mothers whose sons suffer from mental illness, the documentary chronicles in intimate, often painful detail the roadblocks families face in securing treatment, as well as the effects of a dismantled and under-resourced apparatus for psychiatric care in the US.

From 2009 to 2012, states slashed funding for mental health services by $ 5bn while the country got rid of almost 10% of its total number of public psychiatric hospital beds. As the author Andrew Solomon says in the film: “There is the sense that rehabilitation is a luxury.”

Garbus, the prolific documentary film-maker behind Ghosts of Abu Ghraib and What Happened, Miss Simone?, took interest in the subject after the 2012 Newtown shooting, in which 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 27 people. Though she’d previously examined institutional hurdles and the criminal justice system in documentaries like The Farm and The Execution of Wanda Jean, her hope, this time, was to empathize with the mothers who apply what she calls “herculean efforts” in order to care for their children.

[embedded content]

“There was chatter all over the internet and in water coolers: how could a mother not have gotten that son more help? How could she have let him live like that?” Garbus explains. “A woman named Liza Long wrote a blogpost that became very controversial called I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother and she talked about how desperate she had been to get help for her son, how impossible it was to get the care she needed, and how broken the system was.”

In that essay, Long, who appears in the film, wrote: “I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.”

The mothers featured in A Dangerous Son, Stacy, Edie and Cora, feel similarly. For the film, they granted Garbus unfettered access to their home lives as they perform the grinding task of caring for their children while jumping through a number of bureaucratic hoops to get them proper treatment. At one point Edie must call the cops on her son William, 15, after they meet with his social worker; in other scene Stacy’s 10-year-old son Ethan is shown punching his younger sister in the backseat of the car. Later, filming is halted so the camera crew can intervene when Ethan is physically violent toward his mother.

“One wrong word sends me into a psychotic rage,” says Long’s son, Eric. “It’s like watching myself do things I didn’t want to do.”

The specter of mass shootings like the ones in Newtown and Aurora loom large over the film, with one mother expressing fear that she’ll one day see her own son’s face on the news as an example of a child who didn’t get enough help. But Garbus emphasizes the fact that adolescents with mental illness are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violence. “The is not a film about these mass shooters,” she says, underscoring the fact that, while focus on mental health is often used as a crutch in media coverage of gun violence, stigmas about mental illness often come at the expense of families like the ones featured in the film.

“People have allowed films to be made about their children suffering from leukemia, and an enormous amount of empathy comes out and donations to childhood leukemia foundations,” Garbus notes. “But when you open your home to somebody whose child is suffering from mental illness, the stigma and the blowback can feel overwhelming.”

Edie and her two children Amy and William.


Edie and her two children Amy and William. Photograph: HBO

As noted in the film, 17 million children in the US have or have had a psychiatric disorder, but there are currently less than 60,000 beds to accommodate them. In Virginia and elsewhere, such insufficiencies have had fatal consequences: Austin “Gus” Deeds, the son of Virginia state senator Creigh Deeds, stabbed his father and killed himself just 13 hours after efforts to secure him a hospital bed fell through. Deeds, who spoke to Garbus for the film, later sued the state of Virginia for medical malpractice and criminal negligence, claiming that his son’s mental health evaluator failed to contact local hospitals that were later revealed to have available beds.

Edie, one of the mothers featured in A Dangerous Son, has had similar experiences. “Many times a case worker has no experience with mental illness or autism, and so you have to deal with somebody whose job it is to not give money for the institutionalization of the child,” she tells the Guardian. “Even when the case worker is talking to this child’s therapist who says, ‘Yes, this kid needs intensive, 24/7 care’, they’re very, very reluctant to do so.”

In remarks made in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed, Donald Trump said the White House was “committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools, and tackle the difficult issue of mental health”. But in his budget proposal for 2019, funding for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) was decreased by 30%, from $ 1.6bn to $ 1.1bn.

“There are very limited funds,” Edie says. “To be honest, the battle starts from the moment they start seeing the dollar signs.”

Garbus, whose new Trump-themed documentary series The Fourth Estate is being released later this month, says that, despite budget cuts to Medicaid and the NIMH, there are reasons for cautious optimism: last month, a group of three teenagers from Albermarle County, Virginia successfully lobbied for the state to include $ 160,000 in its 2019 budget proposal to add a mental health professional to the school system. “These are the kinds of movements that have to happen on a local level for there to be a larger shift in our attention,” she says.

Until that shift takes place, the mothers hope that the documentary will go a long way toward building empathy and understanding for their plight.

“Since he [William] was three years old, I thought I wasn’t parenting the way a good parent would,” says Edie, who co-parents and remains friends with her ex-husband. “That has followed me throughout my journey with him, even though we were a loving family. Even kids from very good homes are susceptible to mental illness and autism and other issues. And that’s a judgment people are quick to go to.”

  • A Dangerous Son premieres on HBO on 7 May with a UK date yet to be confirmed

Barristers in England and Wales ‘in grip of mental health crisis’

Criminal barristers are in the grip of a mental health crisis caused by significant increases in the amount of digital evidence, the number of historical sexual assault cases and long hours, the body that represents them has said.

Changes to the legal system, including to the fee structure and proposals to extend court hours, were likely to further damage a profession already struggling to cope, according to the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), which represents members of the bar in England and Wales.

Data due to be published by the Bar Council and shared with the Guardian reveals that in the past two years workloads have increased for 40% of criminal law practitioners in England and Wales, while a third said they were considering new career options.

Nearly 60% of criminal bar staff surveyed said they were working more than 51 hours a week; of those nearly half were working more than 60 hours. Only half of the 1,346 barristers questioned said they felt able to balance their home and work lives.

A spokesperson for the Bar Council said: “A preliminary analysis of the raw data from our survey suggests life at the criminal bar is challenging, with barristers in criminal practice recording some of the longest working hours, highest workload and greatest levels of dissatisfaction with their working lives.

“This is a cause for concern and is why we are campaigning for a better-funded system of justice.”

Sarah Vine, a practising barrister who was appointed last year as the first wellbeing director at the CBA, said: “There is a mental health crisis in the profession and it is so insidious.”

Many criminal barristers were feeling “completely despondent and overwhelmed”, she said.

“I spoke to someone the other day who said in the last fortnight she’d done two all-nighters. That is two nights without any sleep at all and nobody bats an eyelid.

“But that’s incredibly dangerous for your mental health. It’s absurd and mistakes are bound to happen as a result.”

The CBA launched a 24-hour helpline in December.

Vine said many of her colleagues had reported that their concerns were being ignored.

“At the bar there is this fetishisation of overwork and the government exploits that. They must think: ‘Brilliant, here are a bunch of people who get their self-worth not from how much money they earn, but from how busy and close to a nervous breakdown they are.’”

Vine said the rise in the number of historical sexual abuse cases had an impact on lawyers both prosecuting and defending lawyers.

Self-employed barristers with a tendency to take on whatever work came their way could end up handling back-to-back cases involving allegations of a serious sexual nature for months.

“It has nothing to do with whether the allegation is true or not – just listening to that stuff day in, day out impacts on your mental health,” Vine said.

Gender representation is evenly split at entry level, the data shows, but a disproportionate number of women quit the bar in later years. The average age of those practising is also rising.

An anonymous blogger known as the Secret Barrister said cuts to legal aid cuts were a major problem. “Initially you can be bringing home less than the minimum wage. This is leading to a succession crisis in criminal law. Increasingly, only those who can afford to supplement their income are joining.

“It affects representation by income and social class, but in crime we are also seeing a huge flood of female practitioners leaving the bar after five or 10 years because the conditions are so family unfriendly.”

Becky Owen, a successful barrister, resigned in March. “For me, it was the conditions, the sheer volume of work and the complete lack of respect for me as a human being,” she said.

“I got sick of arriving home dehydrated, starving and having not had time to go to the loo. It takes its toll.”

The 43-year-old blamed a lack of funding and support. “There aren’t many people who have to watch videos of two-year-old boys being raped before going home to sleep – and at times for less than the minimum wage.

“That’s what we are being asked to deal with, yet the profession attracts no sympathy because it is assumed we make a lot of money. I think in 20 years’ time we’ll look back and recognise this as the point when miscarriages of justices started happening.”