In Wales, between 300 and 350 people take their own life every year, a large number of whom are young men. One in four people will experience a mental health problem over the course of a year, but only one in nine people will receive treatment for it.
In February a damning joint report by the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and the Care Inspectorate Wales highlighted a dangerous postcode lottery of care access to mental health services across Wales, and made 23 recommendations to improve the standard of help on offer.
It was clear from the report that general practitioners were not always clear on how to refer directly into their community mental health teams and very often were referring to hospital teams instead.
The report also found that many people find difficulties in accessing community mental health teams, particularly during a crisis. While there were some parts of Wales where people were getting immediate support, in other parts of Wales there were people who were struggling to access services, particularly GP out-of-hours services. A number of people were reporting that they had to make a number of separate presentations in an emergency department before they were getting access to the sort of crisis support that they needed.
Here is North Wales, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is in special measures because of concerns around its delivery of mental health services.
In light of all this, earlier this month in the Senedd, I asked the chamber to consider providing 24hour crisis care from specialist teams in A&E departments across Wales, as well as boosting the support provided in local communities.
Community Mental Health Teams form an essential part of mental health care in Wales, helping those aged 18 to 65 experiencing serious or enduring mental health problems and it is deeply concerning that this report found that “some clinical areas are not fit for purpose’.
With one in four of us expected to experience a mental health problem, it is vital that we do what we can to ensure that services to support them are easily accessible and available around the clock.
We have seen demands for mental health services increasing in recent years but the capacity of services has not grown to meet this extra demand. Community Mental Health Teams have seen referrals up by 18% but they are struggling to cope and people aren’t always getting the support they need.
Embedding 24/7 crisis teams into our major emergency departments will give people the confidence that appropriate support is available for them when they need it.
Welsh Conservatives’ calls for this are backed by both leading mental health charity Mind Cymru and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.
Since our debate in the Chamber, the Health Minister has announced that £2.32 million will be made available for Mental Health Crisis Care in North Wales. This project will provide urgent metal health support for those in crisis. This includes placing mental health practitioners with ambulance crews and in police control rooms and developing alternatives to hospital admission such as crisis cafes, safe havens and strengthened home treatment services.
Obviously I welcome this funding and I hope the Welsh Government will continue to invest to improve mental health services in all parts of Wales in the future.
However, it is also vital that they raise awareness over access to community mental health teams, so those with mental health issues and their families can get the best advice possible.
Ensuring people with mental health needs, and their carers, receive seamless care and support no matter where they live in Wales is essential and I will continue pushing until this wish is a reality. Those with mental health needs deserve nothing less.