The cost of cuts on our state of mind - experts say slashed services and life pressures cause rise in anxiety
The cost to the county’s mental health at the hands of cuts elsewhere has been laid bare as it was revealed one in seven people in Norfolk are living with depression or anxiety.
Figures from Public Health England show that 14pc of registered patients in the area were suffering with at least one of the mental health conditions at the start of last year.
And the blame was being put on cuts to areas such as housing, benefits, and the increasing pressures we all face.
A survey of patients registered with GPs showed the rate of depression and anxiety in Norfolk had increased by 14.3pc since 2015.
The rate in the area was slightly higher than the national average.
Stephen Buckley, from mental health charity Mind, said: “As attitudes towards mental health improve and with it the understanding that help is available, we’re going to see more and more people seek support.
But he added: “We do know that there are links between, for example, deprivation and mental wellbeing, so it may be that prevalence is genuinely higher in certain areas.”
The results of the survey, conducted between January and March last year, also showed significant differences according to the background of the respondent, with those from more deprived areas more likely to report anxiety or depression.
Dr Richard Gorrod, medical director at GP practice federation Iceni Healthcare, said GPs often bore the brunt of a rise in mental health problems stemming from elsewhere.
He said: “We know it’s a massive, massive problem. What we know is one in three GP consultations involve mental health. It’s a massive pressure as every time there are cuts to services such as housing or benefits, or every time there are pressures in other areas, it spills out into primary care.”
He said while more people were aware of mental health issues, which was positive, there were more pressing causes..
He said: “I suspect it’s actually to do with the pressures of life which are increasing, but I also think it’s to do with a lot of the other organisations have had big cuts, so mental health problems increase.”
Last month Norfolk chef and charity fundraiser Charlie Hodson spoke out candidly about his struggles with mental health, as he announced he would be stepping back from his public roles.
Mr Hodson, who is well known across the county, said his head felt “full of noise”.
He said: “It was a Tuesday afternoon last November that I searched for ‘the quietest place in Norfolk’. I went there later that night, knowing that it would be hours before my body would be found, by a dog walker perhaps. I can’t say how long I was there, or what exactly stopped me from going through it, though. Maybe it was the thought of my boy.”
He said the pressure and mental health issues he experienced were particularly felt in the hospitality industry, where people were “always striving to be better”..
He said: “When I talk to people they’re working 100 hours a week, there’s a saying in hospitality that you’re only as good as your last meal.
“When people meet me they think I’m full of confidence. But behind the scenes some has only got to say ‘I don’t like that’, and that’s it.”
He pointed to the Twitter account @HospAction for those in the industry who needed support.
Dr Gary Howsam, East of England spokesman for the Royal College of GPs, said: “Depression and anxiety can be very serious conditions, and something that GPs are increasingly seeing more of in our surgeries. Around 90pc of patients with mental health problems are cared for in primary care, putting GPs and our teams in a unique position to help patients.
“Psychological therapies are often the desired first treatment option for patients presenting with depression and anxiety, and can often have significant benefits for their long-term health and wellbeing. But these therapies can be hard to come by in the community, particularly in rural areas, and we desperately need more, and more varied, mental health services in the community, where they can be of most benefit to our patients. Alongside this, GPs need better access to them to ensure patients get the care they need and deserve quickly.”
Nesta Reeve, consultant clinical psychologist and clinical lead for wellbeing at the region’s mental health trust, said more public awareness and less stigma contributed to the rise.
And she said Norfolk’s growing population was also a factor.
She said: “While not making you immune from mental health issues, following a healthy lifestyle and practising wellbeing should benefit your mental health.
“Having a greater awareness of stress, and its symptoms, and seeking help early on will ensure that people get better before their mental health issues develop into a crisis.”
The NHS also recommends socialising, taking up exercise, and keeping away from alcohol as ways to try and stay well.
For more information on depression and anxiety, or to access support in Norfolk or Suffolk, visit www.wellbeingnands.co.uk or call 0300 123 1503.