Calls for more funding to reduce suicides of mental health patients treated at home

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Photo by Ryan Melaugh

By Scott Francis

A LACK of government funding into mental health has been blamed after a study revealed more than 200 patients a year commit suicide while being treated at home.

A report released this month by the University of Manchester has revealed three times more people commit suicide when being treated by a visiting mental health crisis team than inpatients on hospital wards.

The purpose of a mental health crisis team is to offer psychological support, administer medication and decide if a patient needs referral to a hospital.

There have been calls from mental health workers and patients’ families for more resources to be made available.

Anthony Deery, 54, director of nursing at Leeds and York NHS Trust said: “Crisis teams are having to deal with more patients who would have been hospitalised because there are not enough beds.

“We feel there are key areas that need investment. There is a need for more support across agencies, with people living alone we need to make sure we are assessing people correctly.”

A woman who did not want to be identified, whose mother was diagnosed with manic depression in 2000, said: “Crisis teams do not seem to have the time or man power. Twenty minutes’ treatment a day did not help my mum’s depression.

“She became almost comatose on a new drug, she stopped making herself food, changing her clothes and washing. She was on her own in the community for weeks.”

The government has pledged £1 billion over the next five years in an attempt to decrease suicides in the UK by 10 per cent by 2020-21 – but some believe this still is not enough.

Sean Fitzgerald, 50, a mental health professional from West Yorkshire, said: “There is significant pressure of people queuing up on the other side waiting for a bed.

“Mental health wards have been shutting down for years due to cuts in the NHS, an increase in suicides is an inevitable consequence. People who would have been treated in hospital have to now be treated at home.”

According to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics, in 2013 alone there were 503 suicides in Yorkshire and Humber.

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Vivian Wade, support worker at The Priory Hospital in Keighley

Vivian Wade, 55, a support worker at The Priory Hospital in Keighley said: “There is a major funding problem, to some extent mental health is the Cinderella service.

“Staff in a unit can closely monitor patients, crisis in the community teams cannot provide 24/7 care.”

But the Department of Health refuted claims of a crisis in mental health care.

A spokesman said: “We’ve increased funding for mental health, in terms of suicide we’ve put £25 million into suicide prevention and £11.7 billion in 2014-15 into mental health.

“I am not saying the experiences of these mental health professionals are wrong but their experiences may not reflect that funding is going up.”

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