Number of Britons seeking help for suicidal thoughts 'has TRIPLED'

Number of Britons seeking help for suicidal thoughts ‘has TRIPLED since the first lockdown’ as psychiatrists warn the UK faces a ‘mental health pandemic’

  • Royal College of Psychiatrists warned mental health services are ‘overflowing’
  • Its president, Dr Adrian James, said they were expecting a ‘tsunami’ of cases
  • Mental health charities are appealing to the Government for additional funding 

The number of people seeking help for suicidal thoughts has risen drastically since the first lockdown was imposed, an investigation has found.

Psychiatrists warned the UK is facing a ‘mental health pandemic’, claiming that NHS services are already ‘overflowing’ with hundreds of patients.

And medics expect they will have to grapple with a further ‘tsunami’ of cases in the coming months, after the second lockdown was introduced.

Rethink Mental Illness’ analysis found the number of people turning to its website for support with suicidal thoughts had tripled in the first six months of lockdown, rising to 232,271 by August, compared to 80,298 in the six months beforehand.

Loneliness, unemployment and post-traumatic stress triggered by the nationwide shutdown have led to the surge, experts said. 

The London Ambulance Service said it has seen a 68 per cent rise in the number of suicides and attempted suicides it attends within a year. And six in ten psychiatrists said they were attending more emergency cases than before the pandemic in a survey for the Royal College of Psychiatrists

EXPERTS WARN LOCKDOWN WILL TRIGGER SUICIDES 

Leading mental health experts have warned today that this lockdown will trigger spikes in suicide, self-harm, alcoholism and domestic abuse.

In an open letter to the Government, obtained exclusively by the Daily Mail, the 42 signatories said the longer the lockdown lasts, the worse this ‘collateral damage’ will be.

Consultant psychologist Dr Keri Nixon, an expert in trauma and domestic abuse who helped write the letter, last night said: ‘The lockdown is supposed to prevent deaths from Covid.

‘But it’s also certain to cause further deaths, not only from other physical diseases like cancer but from alcoholism, addiction and suicide – which have already been soaring this year. 

‘It will also lead to intense loneliness and depression and in older people these are killers, closely linked to poor physical health.

‘Ironically, this will make them all the more vulnerable to Covid.’

A Royal College of Psychiatrists survey of almost 700 members found six in ten were dealing with more emergency cases than they had before the pandemic, The Telegraph reports.

NHS figures also revealed record numbers of urgent and emergency referrals for mental health services in July, the latest date for which data is available, with 2,276 more than the same time last year.

And the London Ambulance Service has seen a 68 per cent surge in the number of suicides and attempted suicides it has attended since the lockdown was imposed on March 23.

A spokesman said their crews attended 37 such cases a day in October, compared to 22 the same time last year. Five years ago, they were attending 17 a day. 

Additionally, mental health charities warned they were seeing a spike in the number of people visiting their websites seeking help and support.

Rethink Mental Illness said visits to its advice pages doubled in the six months since the lockdown, jumping to 1.69million from 829,000 in the six months beforehand.

Dr Adrian James, president of the RCP, told The Telegraph mental health services were running ‘way too hot’ with some patients travelling hundreds of miles to receive treatment.

‘We have been running at full pelt. Our services before Covid were already stretched. All the indications are that there is going to be a big surge – we refer to it as a tsunami – of mental illness as a result of the pandemic’.

It comes after 90 mental health experts wrote to the Government warning that the second lockdown will have a devastating impact on people’s mental health. 

Writing in an open letter to the Government, they said: ‘The lockdown is supposed to prevent deaths from Covid.

‘But it’s also certain to cause further deaths, not only from other physical diseases like cancer but from alcoholism, addiction and suicide – which have already been soaring this year.

‘It will also lead to intense loneliness and depression and in older people these are killers, closely linked to poor physical health.’ 

Last month the NHS announced it was allocating £15million to providing specialist mental health support for employees during the pandemic.

‘(This is) to make sure in every part of the country for all NHS staff we’re launching a service that will get them rapid assessment and treatment, if they need it, for mental health conditions,’ said NHS England’s National Mental Health Director Claire Murdoch.

She added that her arm of the health service had asked the surgery for another 20,000 staff members to enable it to see an additional 2million patients by the year 2023.

Mental health charities are urgently appealing for more funding to help the services manage mounting cases, saying they need at least £200million. 

The Government pledged £27million to train 480 mental health professionals in September, who will be able to see more than 10,000 patients. 

Ministers also pledged £400million last month, to be made available over the next four years, to remove dormitory accommodation from mental health facilities.

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