Tag Archives: Mental

Eight artworks inspired by mental health problems

The Perspective Project hosts art, poetry and writing with the aim of ending stigma and providing an outlet for those with mental health problems. The 24-year-old founder, Mark Anscombe, is already sharing the work of over 30 artists from around the UK, US and Canada, all of whom have various mental health issues. The project accepts submissions in any form, and people can submit anonymously

Mental health still losing out in NHS funding, report finds

King’s Fund says physical health services are still getting bigger budgets, five years after ministers promised ‘parity of esteem’

Mental health


The King’s Fund has warned about the continuing inequality in funding. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Mental health care providers continue to receive far smaller budget increases than hospitals, five years after ministers pledged to create “parity of esteem” between NHS mental and physical health services.

The disclosure, in a new report by the King’s Fund, has sparked concern that mental health patients are receiving poorer quality care because of the widening gap in income.

Budgets of NHS mental health trusts in England rose by less than 2.5% in 2016-17, far less than the 6% boost received by acute trusts and those providing specialist care.

It is the fifth year in a row that NHS bosses gave physical health services a larger cash increase, even though ministers have repeatedly stressed the need to give mental health services more money.

Mental health trusts in England received income increases of just 5.5% between 2012-13 and last year, whereas budgets for acute hospitals rose by 16.8% over the same period, new research by the thinktank shows.

The author Helen Gilburt, a fellow in health policy at the King’s Fund, warned that the continuing inequality in funding was preventing mental health trusts employing enough staff, which is damaging patient care.

“While the NHS is in a difficult position, the slow growth in mental health trust funding and the problem of not having enough staff are both having a real impact on patients, who are having to put up with services that are being stretched to the limit,” she said.

Paul Farmer, the chief executive of the charity Mind, said: “Mental health has been under-resourced for too long, with dire consequences for people with mental health problems.

“If people don’t get the help they need, when they need it, they are likely to become more unwell and need more intensive – and expensive – support further down the line.”

More positively, 84% of mental health trusts last year received a budget increase from NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) – a rise on the 51%, 60% and 56% which had done so in the previous three years. The mental health investment standard, brought in in 2015-16, compels all CCGs to give mental health services an annual rise which at least mirrors their own budget increase.

Gilburt said, however, that “the [overall] funding gap between mental health and cute NHS services is continuing to widen. As long as this is the case, the government’s mission to tackle the burning injustice faced by people with mental health problems will remain out of reach”.

NHS England said funding for mental health services rose in 2016-17 by 6.3% to £9.7bn, compared with a smaller increase – of just 3.7% – in other parts of the health budget. It said mental health was also receiving a slightly larger share of overall CCG spending, at 13.6%.

Mental health still losing out in NHS funding, report finds

King’s Fund says physical health services are still getting bigger budgets, five years after ministers promised ‘parity of esteem’

Mental health


The King’s Fund has warned about the continuing inequality in funding. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Mental health care providers continue to receive far smaller budget increases than hospitals, five years after ministers pledged to create “parity of esteem” between NHS mental and physical health services.

The disclosure, in a new report by the King’s Fund, has sparked concern that mental health patients are receiving poorer quality care because of the widening gap in income.

Budgets of NHS mental health trusts in England rose by less than 2.5% in 2016-17, far less than the 6% boost received by acute trusts and those providing specialist care.

It is the fifth year in a row that NHS bosses gave physical health services a larger cash increase, even though ministers have repeatedly stressed the need to give mental health services more money.

Mental health trusts in England received income increases of just 5.5% between 2012-13 and last year, whereas budgets for acute hospitals rose by 16.8% over the same period, new research by the thinktank shows.

The author Helen Gilburt, a fellow in health policy at the King’s Fund, warned that the continuing inequality in funding was preventing mental health trusts employing enough staff, which is damaging patient care.

“While the NHS is in a difficult position, the slow growth in mental health trust funding and the problem of not having enough staff are both having a real impact on patients, who are having to put up with services that are being stretched to the limit,” she said.

Paul Farmer, the chief executive of the charity Mind, said: “Mental health has been under-resourced for too long, with dire consequences for people with mental health problems.

“If people don’t get the help they need, when they need it, they are likely to become more unwell and need more intensive – and expensive – support further down the line.”

More positively, 84% of mental health trusts last year received a budget increase from NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) – a rise on the 51%, 60% and 56% which had done so in the previous three years. The mental health investment standard, brought in in 2015-16, compels all CCGs to give mental health services an annual rise which at least mirrors their own budget increase.

Gilburt said, however, that “the [overall] funding gap between mental health and cute NHS services is continuing to widen. As long as this is the case, the government’s mission to tackle the burning injustice faced by people with mental health problems will remain out of reach”.

NHS England said funding for mental health services rose in 2016-17 by 6.3% to £9.7bn, compared with a smaller increase – of just 3.7% – in other parts of the health budget. It said mental health was also receiving a slightly larger share of overall CCG spending, at 13.6%.

Mental health still losing out in NHS funding, report finds

King’s Fund says physical health services are still getting bigger budgets, five years after ministers promised ‘parity of esteem’

Mental health


The King’s Fund has warned about the continuing inequality in funding. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Mental health care providers continue to receive far smaller budget increases than hospitals, five years after ministers pledged to create “parity of esteem” between NHS mental and physical health services.

The disclosure, in a new report by the King’s Fund, has sparked concern that mental health patients are receiving poorer quality care because of the widening gap in income.

Budgets of NHS mental health trusts in England rose by less than 2.5% in 2016-17, far less than the 6% boost received by acute trusts and those providing specialist care.

It is the fifth year in a row that NHS bosses gave physical health services a larger cash increase, even though ministers have repeatedly stressed the need to give mental health services more money.

Mental health trusts in England received income increases of just 5.5% between 2012-13 and last year, whereas budgets for acute hospitals rose by 16.8% over the same period, new research by the thinktank shows.

The author Helen Gilburt, a fellow in health policy at the King’s Fund, warned that the continuing inequality in funding was preventing mental health trusts employing enough staff, which is damaging patient care.

“While the NHS is in a difficult position, the slow growth in mental health trust funding and the problem of not having enough staff are both having a real impact on patients, who are having to put up with services that are being stretched to the limit,” she said.

Paul Farmer, the chief executive of the charity Mind, said: “Mental health has been under-resourced for too long, with dire consequences for people with mental health problems.

“If people don’t get the help they need, when they need it, they are likely to become more unwell and need more intensive – and expensive – support further down the line.”

More positively, 84% of mental health trusts last year received a budget increase from NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) – a rise on the 51%, 60% and 56% which had done so in the previous three years. The mental health investment standard, brought in in 2015-16, compels all CCGs to give mental health services an annual rise which at least mirrors their own budget increase.

Gilburt said, however, that “the [overall] funding gap between mental health and cute NHS services is continuing to widen. As long as this is the case, the government’s mission to tackle the burning injustice faced by people with mental health problems will remain out of reach”.

NHS England said funding for mental health services rose in 2016-17 by 6.3% to £9.7bn, compared with a smaller increase – of just 3.7% – in other parts of the health budget. It said mental health was also receiving a slightly larger share of overall CCG spending, at 13.6%.

Mental health still losing out in NHS funding, report finds

King’s Fund says physical health services are still getting bigger budgets, five years after ministers promised ‘parity of esteem’

Mental health


The King’s Fund has warned about the continuing inequality in funding. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Mental health care providers continue to receive far smaller budget increases than hospitals, five years after ministers pledged to create “parity of esteem” between NHS mental and physical health services.

The disclosure, in a new report by the King’s Fund, has sparked concern that mental health patients are receiving poorer quality care because of the widening gap in income.

Budgets of NHS mental health trusts in England rose by less than 2.5% in 2016-17, far less than the 6% boost received by acute trusts and those providing specialist care.

It is the fifth year in a row that NHS bosses gave physical health services a larger cash increase, even though ministers have repeatedly stressed the need to give mental health services more money.

Mental health trusts in England received income increases of just 5.5% between 2012-13 and last year, whereas budgets for acute hospitals rose by 16.8% over the same period, new research by the thinktank shows.

The author Helen Gilburt, a fellow in health policy at the King’s Fund, warned that the continuing inequality in funding was preventing mental health trusts employing enough staff, which is damaging patient care.

“While the NHS is in a difficult position, the slow growth in mental health trust funding and the problem of not having enough staff are both having a real impact on patients, who are having to put up with services that are being stretched to the limit,” she said.

Paul Farmer, the chief executive of the charity Mind, said: “Mental health has been under-resourced for too long, with dire consequences for people with mental health problems.

“If people don’t get the help they need, when they need it, they are likely to become more unwell and need more intensive – and expensive – support further down the line.”

More positively, 84% of mental health trusts last year received a budget increase from NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) – a rise on the 51%, 60% and 56% which had done so in the previous three years. The mental health investment standard, brought in in 2015-16, compels all CCGs to give mental health services an annual rise which at least mirrors their own budget increase.

Gilburt said, however, that “the [overall] funding gap between mental health and cute NHS services is continuing to widen. As long as this is the case, the government’s mission to tackle the burning injustice faced by people with mental health problems will remain out of reach”.

NHS England said funding for mental health services rose in 2016-17 by 6.3% to £9.7bn, compared with a smaller increase – of just 3.7% – in other parts of the health budget. It said mental health was also receiving a slightly larger share of overall CCG spending, at 13.6%.

Mental health support in schools: ‘Families don’t have to spend years on waiting lists’

When Grace Hartill was 11, she began to show the first signs of anxiety. Within a few years, the Barnsley schoolgirl had become withdrawn and had stopped wanting to see her friends.

“It was awful,” she says. “I didn’t want to leave my bedroom because I felt like if I did, something would happen to me or somebody I loved. Home was where I felt safest, so I just isolated myself. I barely went to school.”

As her mental health worsened, she was referred to child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs) but was on the waiting list for two years. When she finally did get treatment, it didn’t help. She adds: “Camhs and the other services I tried just didn’t help. I felt like the therapists didn’t want to be there.”

It wasn’t until a groundbreaking service, MindSpace, launched in her school that Grace began to experience some relief. Funded by Barnsley clinical commissioning group (CCG) through its Future in Mind fund, the initiative works by embedding mental health practitioners in secondary schools so children don’t have to be taken out of school to access treatment. The scheme, originally piloted last academic year by 10 schools and officially launched in October 2017, aims to tackle poor mental health while bypassing traditional services, which are seeing rising demand coupled with insufficient capacity.

Consisting of three primary health practitioners, a parent counsellor, a family support worker and an emotional health support worker, the MindSpace team offers one-to-one sessions and groups for specific issues such as bereavement. It is led by Michelle Sault, head of extended services at the Wellspring Academy Trust, who came up with the idea after running a pupil referral unit, and seeing children who she believed didn’t belong there.

“I think school is where a young person should be,” Sault says. “There are a lot of discrepancies in Camhs, and in schools that don’t have funding to provide as much pastoral support as is needed these days. It’s an injustice in a sense that young people aren’t supported earlier before things escalate.”

Before the launch of MindSpace, Grace’s mother, Lisa Robinson, was at her “wit’s end”; her son was struggling with anxiety and behavioural issues, and she also has mental health problems. She remembers: “None of us were in a good place. I thought we should give it a go and it will either work or it won’t. Thankfully it did. Grace was soon able to identify when she was having anxiety attacks and to understand that she wasn’t going to die.”

Within a few months, there was a marked improvement in the household. Both children were going to school without problems and Robinson, who was one of 63 parents who also received counselling, felt better than she had in years. “I think it’s amazing to have it in schools so that families don’t have to spend years on waiting lists and the whole family can be helped,” she says.

Grace agrees: “It made all three of us happier. It’s like we were searching for something that wasn’t there and then it came along. It really worked wonders. Compared to other services I tried, I felt like MindSpace really wanted to be there and they wanted to listen to me. They understood what I was going through and made me realise I wasn’t the only one going through it.”

Funding for the £1.3m programme, which is delivered in all Barnsley secondary schools, is guaranteed until at least 2020. In its first year, more than 200 young people have been supported and more than 100 teachers trained by Sheffield-based mental health charity Chilypep. The training is being rolled out to all staff in all the schools – and one of the key aims is to create an environment where everyone can be open about mental health and wellbeing.

Patrick Otway, head of commissioning for Barnsley CCG, says that while no formal evaluation has been published yet, numerous positive case studies have been gathered – and a full impact assessment is on the cards. “In 2013, we had gathered evidence that there was very little support for young people in Barnsley for lower level emotional needs,” he says. “At the time, there was no funding to develop the service – so when the Future in Mind report and funding became available, the CCG already knew what was needed.”

Statistics show that one in 10 children has depression, anxiety or another diagnosable mental health problem – so the MindSpace team hope to see the model rolled out nationally. Brigid Reid, chief nurse for the CCG, says it’s this combining of health and education that makes the scheme successful. “Having [Sault’s] insights into how schools work and what students and parents need, think and feel – and to marry that with the expertise of the practitioners employed, that’s what makes it unique,” she says.

Mental health practitioner Angela Yildiz agrees. “Education and health do work well together,” she says. “Initially there were some difficulties given this has never been done. But the teachers really work with me, not against me.”

For Kate Davies, headteacher at one of the schools, Darton college, the best thing about the scheme is it means teachers can concentrate on what they do best. “The concept of having trained mental health practitioners as part of the school – and ours really is part of the team – is so simple yet so obvious,” she says.

For Robinson’s family, the difference has been almost unbelievable, especially in Grace. “One day Grace came home from school and just said casually that she was going to her friend’s house. I could not believe what she was saying. That was the turnaround for Grace. She is now doing performing arts at college and is learning to drive. It’s the best decision I made as a mum, and as an individual.”

Join the Healthcare Professionals Network to read more pieces like this. And follow us on Twitter (@GdnHealthcare) to keep up with the latest healthcare news and views.

If you’re looking for a healthcare job or need to recruit staff, visit Guardian Jobs.

Mental health support in schools: ‘Families don’t have to spend years on waiting lists’

When Grace Hartill was 11, she began to show the first signs of anxiety. Within a few years, the Barnsley schoolgirl had become withdrawn and had stopped wanting to see her friends.

“It was awful,” she says. “I didn’t want to leave my bedroom because I felt like if I did, something would happen to me or somebody I loved. Home was where I felt safest, so I just isolated myself. I barely went to school.”

As her mental health worsened, she was referred to child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs) but was on the waiting list for two years. When she finally did get treatment, it didn’t help. She adds: “Camhs and the other services I tried just didn’t help. I felt like the therapists didn’t want to be there.”

It wasn’t until a groundbreaking service, MindSpace, launched in her school that Grace began to experience some relief. Funded by Barnsley clinical commissioning group (CCG) through its Future in Mind fund, the initiative works by embedding mental health practitioners in secondary schools so children don’t have to be taken out of school to access treatment. The scheme, originally piloted last academic year by 10 schools and officially launched in October 2017, aims to tackle poor mental health while bypassing traditional services, which are seeing rising demand coupled with insufficient capacity.

Consisting of three primary health practitioners, a parent counsellor, a family support worker and an emotional health support worker, the MindSpace team offers one-to-one sessions and groups for specific issues such as bereavement. It is led by Michelle Sault, head of extended services at the Wellspring Academy Trust, who came up with the idea after running a pupil referral unit, and seeing children who she believed didn’t belong there.

“I think school is where a young person should be,” Sault says. “There are a lot of discrepancies in Camhs, and in schools that don’t have funding to provide as much pastoral support as is needed these days. It’s an injustice in a sense that young people aren’t supported earlier before things escalate.”

Before the launch of MindSpace, Grace’s mother, Lisa Robinson, was at her “wit’s end”; her son was struggling with anxiety and behavioural issues, and she also has mental health problems. She remembers: “None of us were in a good place. I thought we should give it a go and it will either work or it won’t. Thankfully it did. Grace was soon able to identify when she was having anxiety attacks and to understand that she wasn’t going to die.”

Within a few months, there was a marked improvement in the household. Both children were going to school without problems and Robinson, who was one of 63 parents who also received counselling, felt better than she had in years. “I think it’s amazing to have it in schools so that families don’t have to spend years on waiting lists and the whole family can be helped,” she says.

Grace agrees: “It made all three of us happier. It’s like we were searching for something that wasn’t there and then it came along. It really worked wonders. Compared to other services I tried, I felt like MindSpace really wanted to be there and they wanted to listen to me. They understood what I was going through and made me realise I wasn’t the only one going through it.”

Funding for the £1.3m programme, which is delivered in all Barnsley secondary schools, is guaranteed until at least 2020. In its first year, more than 200 young people have been supported and more than 100 teachers trained by Sheffield-based mental health charity Chilypep. The training is being rolled out to all staff in all the schools – and one of the key aims is to create an environment where everyone can be open about mental health and wellbeing.

Patrick Otway, head of commissioning for Barnsley CCG, says that while no formal evaluation has been published yet, numerous positive case studies have been gathered – and a full impact assessment is on the cards. “In 2013, we had gathered evidence that there was very little support for young people in Barnsley for lower level emotional needs,” he says. “At the time, there was no funding to develop the service – so when the Future in Mind report and funding became available, the CCG already knew what was needed.”

Statistics show that one in 10 children has depression, anxiety or another diagnosable mental health problem – so the MindSpace team hope to see the model rolled out nationally. Brigid Reid, chief nurse for the CCG, says it’s this combining of health and education that makes the scheme successful. “Having [Sault’s] insights into how schools work and what students and parents need, think and feel – and to marry that with the expertise of the practitioners employed, that’s what makes it unique,” she says.

Mental health practitioner Angela Yildiz agrees. “Education and health do work well together,” she says. “Initially there were some difficulties given this has never been done. But the teachers really work with me, not against me.”

For Kate Davies, headteacher at one of the schools, Darton college, the best thing about the scheme is it means teachers can concentrate on what they do best. “The concept of having trained mental health practitioners as part of the school – and ours really is part of the team – is so simple yet so obvious,” she says.

For Robinson’s family, the difference has been almost unbelievable, especially in Grace. “One day Grace came home from school and just said casually that she was going to her friend’s house. I could not believe what she was saying. That was the turnaround for Grace. She is now doing performing arts at college and is learning to drive. It’s the best decision I made as a mum, and as an individual.”

Join the Healthcare Professionals Network to read more pieces like this. And follow us on Twitter (@GdnHealthcare) to keep up with the latest healthcare news and views.

If you’re looking for a healthcare job or need to recruit staff, visit Guardian Jobs.

My charity sees the toll of job losses on mental health – we struggle to meet demand

As chief executive of a small mental health charity in one of the poorest areas of north east England, I don’t sleep well. We deliver frontline recovery services in Redcar & Cleveland and in 2011 our funding was cut by 61% in one fell swoop. We used to get £350,000 from the local authority; now we manage on £135,000.

Meanwhile, mass unemployment and financial pressure have taken their toll on people’s mental health and we’ve seen demand more than double. The steelworks used to be the lifeblood of our community and its closure in 2015 has been catastrophic.

Across the country, suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 50 and rates of depression and anxiety in young people are spiralling. We see the human face of those statistics every day, and although I am an eternal optimist, most days are tinged with upset and anger.

I regularly meet staff who work in search and rescue. We offer them resilience training and mental health support through our Blue Light Programme. We know that staff and volunteers working within the emergency services are at increased risk of suicide due to stress.

One instance that particularly stays in my thoughts is when a young volunteer from a local search and rescue team was involved in the harrowing experience of retrieving a body from the foot of Huntcliff, a beautiful and majestic landmark along our coastline. They had just had their first experience of the trauma of suicide and remained in my thoughts all day. It’s volunteers like that who potentially need our services.


Too many people need us, and our resources are limited. Very limited.

Later that day I received a call from my 19-year-old son. The body retrieved from Huntcliff was someone he knew. The sad irony is not lost on me: three young people of a similar age. One is dead, one may not sleep due to what they have witnessed, and the other is touched by sudden bereavement. What words do I choose that can possibly make this better? I am at a loss.

I do what I do today because of my own lived experience. In 2006, out of the blue, I suffered a life-threatening depressive episode. It lasted six months from onset to recovery. During that time struggling to understand my mental illness, I made repeated attempts to take my life. Back then I had no idea that services like Redcar & Cleveland Mind existed. I survived through the support of my wonderful children, a great GP and some very loyal friends. But I know some people aren’t so lucky.

I will do everything within my power to make sure our service continues to be there for anyone who needs it. But therein lies the problem. Too many people need us, and our resources are limited. Very limited.

Our Road to Recovery service is funded to support people with “mild to moderate” mental health problems. We are asked to categorise people depending on how unwell they may be, or how much support they may need. If they are too ill, we’re not funded to help them. But of course we do. We will treat them as real people and help them to realise that their lives matter.

We make a small income on the Well4Work training we offer employers to help them support their staff’s mental health – but this is all reinvested into the work we do. We increasingly rely on donations, often from those bereaved by suicide.

Mental health doesn’t have the appeal of other charitable causes, unless it touches people directly. We will continue to fight for those you may have loved and lost. And in the meantime I remain hopeful that in this new year we will see Huntcliff in its majestic glory rather than as a place where hopelessness claims more lives. As for me, I suspect 2018 will bring many more sleepless nights.

In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

This series aims to give a voice to the staff behind the public services that are hit by mounting cuts and rising demand, and so often denigrated by the press, politicians and public. If you would like to write an article for the series, contact kirstie.brewer@theguardian.com

Talk to us on Twitter via @Guardianpublic and sign up for your free Guardian Public Leaders newsletter with news and analysis sent direct to you every month

My charity sees the toll of job losses on mental health – we struggle to meet demand

As chief executive of a small mental health charity in one of the poorest areas of north east England, I don’t sleep well. We deliver frontline recovery services in Redcar & Cleveland and in 2011 our funding was cut by 61% in one fell swoop. We used to get £350,000 from the local authority; now we manage on £135,000.

Meanwhile, mass unemployment and financial pressure have taken their toll on people’s mental health and we’ve seen demand more than double. The steelworks used to be the lifeblood of our community and its closure in 2015 has been catastrophic.

Across the country, suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 50 and rates of depression and anxiety in young people are spiralling. We see the human face of those statistics every day, and although I am an eternal optimist, most days are tinged with upset and anger.

I regularly meet staff who work in search and rescue. We offer them resilience training and mental health support through our Blue Light Programme. We know that staff and volunteers working within the emergency services are at increased risk of suicide due to stress.

One instance that particularly stays in my thoughts is when a young volunteer from a local search and rescue team was involved in the harrowing experience of retrieving a body from the foot of Huntcliff, a beautiful and majestic landmark along our coastline. They had just had their first experience of the trauma of suicide and remained in my thoughts all day. It’s volunteers like that who potentially need our services.


Too many people need us, and our resources are limited. Very limited.

Later that day I received a call from my 19-year-old son. The body retrieved from Huntcliff was someone he knew. The sad irony is not lost on me: three young people of a similar age. One is dead, one may not sleep due to what they have witnessed, and the other is touched by sudden bereavement. What words do I choose that can possibly make this better? I am at a loss.

I do what I do today because of my own lived experience. In 2006, out of the blue, I suffered a life-threatening depressive episode. It lasted six months from onset to recovery. During that time struggling to understand my mental illness, I made repeated attempts to take my life. Back then I had no idea that services like Redcar & Cleveland Mind existed. I survived through the support of my wonderful children, a great GP and some very loyal friends. But I know some people aren’t so lucky.

I will do everything within my power to make sure our service continues to be there for anyone who needs it. But therein lies the problem. Too many people need us, and our resources are limited. Very limited.

Our Road to Recovery service is funded to support people with “mild to moderate” mental health problems. We are asked to categorise people depending on how unwell they may be, or how much support they may need. If they are too ill, we’re not funded to help them. But of course we do. We will treat them as real people and help them to realise that their lives matter.

We make a small income on the Well4Work training we offer employers to help them support their staff’s mental health – but this is all reinvested into the work we do. We increasingly rely on donations, often from those bereaved by suicide.

Mental health doesn’t have the appeal of other charitable causes, unless it touches people directly. We will continue to fight for those you may have loved and lost. And in the meantime I remain hopeful that in this new year we will see Huntcliff in its majestic glory rather than as a place where hopelessness claims more lives. As for me, I suspect 2018 will bring many more sleepless nights.

In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

This series aims to give a voice to the staff behind the public services that are hit by mounting cuts and rising demand, and so often denigrated by the press, politicians and public. If you would like to write an article for the series, contact kirstie.brewer@theguardian.com

Talk to us on Twitter via @Guardianpublic and sign up for your free Guardian Public Leaders newsletter with news and analysis sent direct to you every month

My charity sees the toll of job losses on mental health – we struggle to meet demand

As chief executive of a small mental health charity in one of the poorest areas of north east England, I don’t sleep well. We deliver frontline recovery services in Redcar & Cleveland and in 2011 our funding was cut by 61% in one fell swoop. We used to get £350,000 from the local authority; now we manage on £135,000.

Meanwhile, mass unemployment and financial pressure have taken their toll on people’s mental health and we’ve seen demand more than double. The steelworks used to be the lifeblood of our community and its closure in 2015 has been catastrophic.

Across the country, suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 50 and rates of depression and anxiety in young people are spiralling. We see the human face of those statistics every day, and although I am an eternal optimist, most days are tinged with upset and anger.

I regularly meet staff who work in search and rescue. We offer them resilience training and mental health support through our Blue Light Programme. We know that staff and volunteers working within the emergency services are at increased risk of suicide due to stress.

One instance that particularly stays in my thoughts is when a young volunteer from a local search and rescue team was involved in the harrowing experience of retrieving a body from the foot of Huntcliff, a beautiful and majestic landmark along our coastline. They had just had their first experience of the trauma of suicide and remained in my thoughts all day. It’s volunteers like that who potentially need our services.


Too many people need us, and our resources are limited. Very limited.

Later that day I received a call from my 19-year-old son. The body retrieved from Huntcliff was someone he knew. The sad irony is not lost on me: three young people of a similar age. One is dead, one may not sleep due to what they have witnessed, and the other is touched by sudden bereavement. What words do I choose that can possibly make this better? I am at a loss.

I do what I do today because of my own lived experience. In 2006, out of the blue, I suffered a life-threatening depressive episode. It lasted six months from onset to recovery. During that time struggling to understand my mental illness, I made repeated attempts to take my life. Back then I had no idea that services like Redcar & Cleveland Mind existed. I survived through the support of my wonderful children, a great GP and some very loyal friends. But I know some people aren’t so lucky.

I will do everything within my power to make sure our service continues to be there for anyone who needs it. But therein lies the problem. Too many people need us, and our resources are limited. Very limited.

Our Road to Recovery service is funded to support people with “mild to moderate” mental health problems. We are asked to categorise people depending on how unwell they may be, or how much support they may need. If they are too ill, we’re not funded to help them. But of course we do. We will treat them as real people and help them to realise that their lives matter.

We make a small income on the Well4Work training we offer employers to help them support their staff’s mental health – but this is all reinvested into the work we do. We increasingly rely on donations, often from those bereaved by suicide.

Mental health doesn’t have the appeal of other charitable causes, unless it touches people directly. We will continue to fight for those you may have loved and lost. And in the meantime I remain hopeful that in this new year we will see Huntcliff in its majestic glory rather than as a place where hopelessness claims more lives. As for me, I suspect 2018 will bring many more sleepless nights.

In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

This series aims to give a voice to the staff behind the public services that are hit by mounting cuts and rising demand, and so often denigrated by the press, politicians and public. If you would like to write an article for the series, contact kirstie.brewer@theguardian.com

Talk to us on Twitter via @Guardianpublic and sign up for your free Guardian Public Leaders newsletter with news and analysis sent direct to you every month