The Government’s ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapies’ (IAPT) scheme is in the news today. There’s concern that the gap between an initial NHS assessment for mental health issues and actual talking therapy is too long.
Over a million people a year go through the IAPT system, and you may well be one of them. The statistics indicate that nine out of ten people are seen within two weeks but there’s then a wait of up to 90 days to get regular appointments and in that gap there is evidence that people are getting worse. This must be incredibly frustrating for our colleagues working in the system. Therapists are doing the job because they want to help people and it’s very frustrating for well-trained and experienced counsellors to see their waiting lists building up knowing that people out there are in need. Many counsellors in private practice try to ease the pressure by offering low cost therapy options but it seems that demand is outstripping supply.
The good news is that once we get into therapy it usually helps. (Unless that is we’ve been so traumatised by the long wait that we’re too alienated to benefit – and this does happen.) So what can we do if we’re stuck on the waiting list and can’t afford to access private therapy?
If you are in crisis there are a number of helplines and online forums that can support you.
A great place to start is the mental health charity, MIND. You can find a wealth of self-care resources via their website: mind.org.uk For example, here’s their list of links to online support communities:
- Bipolar UK eCommunity
- Beat Message Boards
- Big White Wall
- SANE Support Forum
- Hafal Clic (in English and Welsh)
- Friends in Need
Some people find these communities helpful as they provide a way to share feelings and seek support from other people who may have similar experiences.
The Samaritans are also available to talk 24/7. The number is 116 123. You can also email them on email@example.com and they guarantee a response within 24 hours.
If you are feeling a bit stronger you could consider the following self-help steps to prepare you for talking therapy when you get there:
- Listen to your body – what do you need?
- Connect with nature and the outdoors – is it soothing to spend time outside?
- Develop a compassionate inner voice – your inner critic doesn’t have to have the last word
- Take account of your childhood – if you’ve been hurt in the past then it’s normal to struggle in the present
Meanwhile, hats off to all those working in IAPT services and to all those patiently waiting for help.