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Calling for help (May 5th) by Oli

Getting help in a mental health emergency can be a trial of confusion and frustration, particularly for those who have never had contact with mental health services before. Different localities have their own systems and division of mental health teams, their own crisis numbers, opening times and rules. Some have a visible presence online while others are seemingly “hidden” from sight.

In contrast, charity helplines are easy and straightforward for the public to access and do a fantastic job, but due to their non-clinical (but vital!) nature they face limitations in what they can practically do in certain situations.

111 has been in the spotlight recently as a service under a tremendous strain from calls relating to coronavirus. There are reports of hundreds of thousands of calls a week. However, if my understanding is correct, in some areas of the country the 111 service faces similar limitations to charity helplines when it comes to supporting people in distress, with some unable to make mental health referrals or assessments.

One of my friends who works for an NHS crisis team recently told me that their team is expanding and that they will soon be accepting calls from the general public in addition to calls from people known to the community mental health team. It feels as though coronavirus may have been the catalyst for this change, as crisis support is particularly important right now.

While I understand that there are constraints on time and resource, for me, good public mental health means that support is available and easily accessible to the whole public. I welcome a more inclusive and straightforward approach to mental health and hope to see changes elsewhere. In my mind, proper implementation would preserve and reinforce specialised support while boosting access to help for all.


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