“You still go to therapy?”
“Nah. I gave up years ago.”
“Mental health isn’t for everyone.”
― Jonathan Tropper, One Last Thing Before I Go
The UK is undoubtedly facing a Mental Health (MH) crisis, particularly among the young. Aside from the knock-on effects related to old age and the lack of Social Care (SC) provision, MH services within the NHS is one of the most strained departments.
Many who have experienced the NHS MH system will know that it is one of the most demoralising processes to go through. If you report feeling depressed or anxious the first port of call for most GP’s is to push you onto the drugs, usually SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors).
SSRI medications for around 50% of people work well and are a cheap and easy fix to many MH/ Mood Disorders. However, this leaves the other 50% lost and without help.
Usually if one SSRI medication is not successful you will then be put on another SSRI based medication – which feels like madness. Often some of the most desperate people will have to go through months of trial and error with SSRI medication which often makes individuals more anxious, depressed or unstable.
Indeed, many studies have shown that in some depressed people Serotonin levels are actually already quite high, making the repeated prescription of SSRI medications both useless and arguably dangerous, as side effects of the medication can be increased levels of Anxiety and Depression; which for people already suffering with depression is a deadly recipe for disaster.
Within the large bracket of suffers who gain no relief from the SSRI medications favoured, the only other options are types of therapy such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and the STEPPS Basic Skills Group Programme. But getting places or referrals can be impossible; and for many, it can be too little too late. Waiting lists for these therapies are extremely long or are run by voluntary groups or charities outside of the NHS with limited space and availability. Often people have to wait months, or in some cases up to a year before they can receive the help they need from a specialist.
This has lead to a spike in many MH sufferers turning to self-medication with extremely powerful sleep, pain and PTSD drugs, such as Xanax, Diazepam or the painkiller, Tramadol. We are now seeing a generation of young people who rather than smoke a joint or get trashed at a party are choosing to acquire prescription medications, of dubious origin, from illegal drug dealers because they can’t get the help they need from doctors.
These powerful drugs serve as flip switches for pain and are only meant for use in the most severe of cases, in controlled amounts; as Benzodiazepines are more addictive than Heroin. What many depression and MH suffers find through the misuse of drugs like Xanax is death without actually dying (yet). With abuse of these drugs the patient will become like a living zombie, unable to feel pain both emotionally and physically and it will aid prolonged sleep. They are a dangerous last resort for many sufferers and are of course not a long-term fix for the problem, they just mask and suppress it.
Plus, with the illegal procurement and supply of these drugs they often contain a myriad of nasty chemicals and are cut with other deadly substances, putting the person who is desperate for relief in a situation with an enormous risk of death.
Theresa May’s Conservative government have increased funding for MH services so that thousands more people can get access to the care and services they need, which I applaud, but at the same time, as a Libertarian, I question.
Just like with the obesity epidemic hospitals and the NHS in general are being forced to deal with the ramifications of an obese population. Larger beds are being bought so we can treat the supersize patients: and Diabetes, or Cardio units are filled to the brim with patients whose problems could be or could have been prevented via early intervention or treated with diet and lifestyle prescriptions.
Indeed, young Doctors and GP’s report that nearly 8/10 of the patients they see could have their ailments remedied with diet and lifestyle advice. Yet many doctors receive minimal training in these areas and are less equipped to deal with these patients without specialist, and expensive referral.
We all are aware in this instance that a far better way with dealing with obesity, rather than treating its outcomes, is to stop it in it’s tracks before it has time to cause problems and put strains on medical services. So why don’t we see this attitude being called for within MH services?
Some of the first questions to ask when it comes to the MH epidemic is why are we seeing this crisis at all? What are the root problems? And why is it affecting the Millennial population unlike any generation in the past?
I would argue that many of the precursors for mental health problems can be identified within childhood and early adolescence. What many people don’t understand is that early childhood trauma and stressors can cause brain development problems and lead to an increased proclivity for the development of MH issues in later life; it’s not just something people can ‘sack up’ and ‘get over’ – There are serious brain development issues that underlie many MH conditions such as depression and Generalised Anxiety Disorder.
These stressors can be large and ground shaking events like sexual or physical abuse or a cocktail of more minor stressors and inhibitors which can also cause damage to the developing and fragile mind of a child.
Even things like too much screen time on computers, tablets and phones are proven to stunt development and cause anger/ aggression problems, depression and anxiety. Stressors like lack of support form parents and teachers are also a significant factor when understanding how MH issues are manifested. This doesn’t mean that parents and teachers should be indulging children, quite the opposite. Sometimes looking after your child’s best interests means giving them boundaries, monitoring food and media intake as well as having an active involvement in their school life.
Often children whose parents take a hands-off approach to their children and let them figure it out for themselves, without offering advice and tools, develop just as poorly as those who have had overly oppressive parenting.
We are also relying too much, as adults, on the state and private enterprise to fix the issues our children have. We blame private companies selling candy for the obesity of our children, we blame T.V and media for not regulating content and causing our kids to develop MH problems or eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. We simply have become a nation of indulgent and lazy parents who want others to do the parenting for us.
So many cases of MH and diabetes could be eradicated with better parenting strategies and the power of the word “No”. Because if we don’t say no to our kids and we aren’t vigilant about how they are raised it will and has caused problems for them in adolescence and adulthood which ends up costing the taxpayer more and endangering the lives of so many sufferers.
Just as with education, early intervention by social workers and educators in problem families could go a long way to fixing the problematic MH or dietary outcomes that many teens and young adults face. Which not only would make for healthier minds but also a richer society, which is not burdened financially by paying for the mistakes they made as parents. The kindest and most Libertarian thing we can do for our children, is to be better caregivers so that society and peoples hard earned taxes aren’t funnelled into rectification of the failure of others. It is also the most compassionate outcome as rather than allow these problems to develop we cut out the precursors to MH suffering all together so that nobody has to go through Depression, Anxiety or the many other MH disorders many young people are suffering with.
We have the World Wide Web, free parenting guides and scholarly articles at our fingertips to make sure we do the best for our children, there are features galore on T.V and radio about how screen time and poor diets are ruining our children’s lives; there’s literally no excuse for us to be causing so much damage to our children. If we took a hold of these tools or had a more involved social service, who could help guide parents to avoid causing the root issues many MH issues stem from, we could stop this dreadful MH epidemic and ease the burden on our economy and health services simultaneously.
Once again, spending isn’t the only answer. We need clinical and social reform to make a real impact on MH services. The State should never be Mother and Father, it’s up to us to make the change we wish to see in society and within our family lives.