Counselling in the News: Reaction to new government strategy on mental health

The Government’s new strategy ‘No Health Without Mental Health‘ was announced on Wednesday,with £400m being pledged over four years to extend the IAPT scheme (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) so that talking therapies, including counselling, will be more widely available – especially to children and young people.

Six objectives have been set out in the strategy, to be achieved by 2014, and these are that more everyone should :

  • Have good mental health
  • Recover from mental health problems
  • Have good physical health
  • Have positive experiences of care and support
  • Not suffer from avoidable harm
  • Not experience stigma or discrimination

The government has committed to funding Time to Change, who campaign against stigma and discrimination towards those who suffer from mental health problems. In addition to the strategy, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also announced today the Government’s intention to remove s141 of the Mental Health Act (which bars people from being MPs if they have been sectioned for more than six months) thus further reducing unhelpful stigma around mental health issues.

Reactions to the strategy have been mixed: overall it has been welcomed, but there is concern that although the importance of early intervention for children and young people has been recognised, perhaps not enough emphasis has been placed on the need for associated services being easily available for parents and families (The Mental Health Strategy Needs More Family Focus).  Others, myself included, have voiced worries about cuts being made to existing services who are already offering excellent services to children.

I have been asked for my opinion by a couple of magazines, and have commented as follows:

 “I welcome the news that the government recognises the importance of ‘talking therapies’ and is committing to increasing funding for the provision of these, particularly in respect of children and young people. It is very positive that the emphasis appears to be on early intervention, rather than targetting only those areas within services which deals with the more complex mental health issues; whilst these services provide valuable support and treatment, many complex problems could be avoided if children received appropriate support early on.  

However, I am concerned that this may be a case of funding being given with one hand and taken away with the other.  Within my local area I am aware of several valuable projects offering psychological support to children – both within the voluntary sector and local authority support services (such as a local school counselling initiative) – having become casualities of recent government cuts.  This is happening on a national level, alongside recruitment ‘freezes’ and long waiting lists within many CAMHS services.  I believe that what is needed is the provision of a range of therapies (e.g. counselling/psychotherapy; play therapy; family therapy etc) delivered by highly trained and experienced practitioners within a range of settings rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach, with short-term CBT being seen as the only effective therapy – as seems to have been the case with the IAPT initiative.  It will be interesting to see how the strategy is implemented.”

As always, I would love to hear your views on this, so please do leave a comment or drop me an e-mail.

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