10 May, 2021
It is important now more than ever to look out for signs of mental health problems, identify symptoms and to be there for anyone struggling.
As a result of the pandemic, Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists warned of an escalating mental health crisis "As a result of Covid we are now seeing an increase in people attending emergency departments and reporting to Crisis Mental Health Services …. We are also seeing an increase in the numbers of people, but also in the severity of the disorder".
Matt Rudd, Sunday Times Magazine columnist and author of 'Man Down: why men are unhappy and what we can do about it' highlights the apparently more acute problem in men, noting the NHS figures before the pandemic year, 1 in 5 women suffers from anxiety and depression compared to 1 in 8 men. Yet, men are three times more likely to take their own lives.
Martin Pollecoff, Chairman of the UK Counsel of Psychotherapy, explained in an interview in 2019, "If you look at the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, which is the bible for diagnosing mental health conditions, there are 800 pages of symptoms women will readily recognise because they express feelings, but few for men, whose behaviours under stress can be quite displaced…. It is a terrible thing to say, but women feel and men act". Pollecoff said "They slope off to the pub, smoke a joint, start a fight, see a prostitute. Anxious men tend to lose themselves. And then the awful thing is, their anxiety is not diagnosed, and we end up in this terrible situation where the first time we know something is wrong is when they take their own life".
There is still a patriarchal expectation of the modern man, he is still seen as the breadwinner, the way we measure success and status. The requirement to 'man up', where to ask for help is a sign of weakness. These characteristics contribute to issues developing into mental illness. We cannot ignore the problem through concern that approaching the topic might 'un-lift the lid'. It takes courage to admit a struggle.
Listen and empathise. Encourage a person that needs it to get support. Direct them to Mind.org.uk. Ask how you can help in order to leave them with some sense of control. You cannot always find a solution. Talking is not always a quick fix and the need to treat the disease rather than the symptoms must be recognised. All too often it is easier to look at someone from the outside, a perceived situation and wonder why it happened to them. All of us experience things that in the moment seem insurmountable, but to get over them you need strength, self-esteem, support and help.
A decline in mental health has the ability to affect ANYONE. I am instructed in a number of cases where a number of Trusts have failed to adequately risk assess and recognise and manage 'red flags', leaving families unskilled in coping to deal with 'sick' relatives. I become involved when the signs were there, but were not acted upon. I have increasingly seen Trusts investigate why significant harm has been caused under their duty of candour. Whether there will be changes to mental health provision learnt from the findings remains to be seen. What is in no doubt is that this is not a problem that is going to go away.
More than ever in these times we are appealing to everybody to look out for one another and be aware.
For more information contact Leonie Millard in our Clinical Negligence department via email or phone on 01254 770517. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.