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Board’s eye view - Mental health reforms

Prime minister David Cameron last month promised an ‘all-out assault on poverty’ with a series of social reforms to include better mental health services.

Prime minister David Cameron last month promised an ‘all-out assault on poverty’ with a series of social reforms to include better mental health services.

Mr Cameron called for a ‘more mature’ conversation about mental health. He said that new mothers with postnatal depression and teenagers with anorexia would be among those to benefit from a £1 billion cash injection that was allocated in the autumn statement.

Along with this additional spending, the prime minister has pledged more psychiatric support for staff in emergency departments (EDs) and community services.

The government has allocated £247 million over the next five years to ensure that every hospital with an ED has a permanent mental health service.

This pledge of extra money comes as inpatient mental health units are closing and waiting lists to see mental health practitioners are growing.

With the country developing a culture of ‘a pill for every ill’, is the government closing the door after the horse has bolted?

It is estimated that more than one in four adults will be diagnosed at one time in their lives with at least one mental health illness, and that women are almost twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with mental illness, be engaged in self-harm behaviour and commit suicide.

In recent months, there has been a big push for society to become more willing to discuss mental health illness and depression, with television and radio campaigns encouraging people to be more ‘open’.

Perhaps there is a move towards acceptance and understanding surrounding mental health illness.

However, the question still needs to be asked: is the ED the right environment to care for some of our most vulnerable members of society?

About the author

Mike Parker is lecturer in acute and critical care nursing at the University of York and member of the Emergency Nurse editorial advisory board.

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