'Don't hesitate': Mental health experts encourage people to ask for help

Dr Chinea Eziefula, Dr Phil Moore and Marjorie Wallace at Ham&High: Our Community's Mental Health

Dr Chinea Eziefula, Dr Phil Moore and Marjorie Wallace at Ham&High: Our Community's Mental Health - Credit: Archant

After a "year of loss", mental health problems have spiked and in north London this has been no different. 

But as part of the Ham&High: Our Community's Mental Health event, Dr Chinea Eziefula, Dr Phil Moore and Marjorie Wallace, from the charity SANE, spoke of how people in need can begin to access support. 

Marjorie told the panel: "Over the last year, we have seen a tremendous rise in the severity of people's anxiety and depression." 

And Dr Moore, who chairs the Mental Health Commissioners Network, agreed.

"What we've seen is people with severe mental and emotional distress. And that's something that's affected all of us to a large extent," he said.

"The vast majority of us will get through emotional distress, with the help and support of friends and family, but there are some of us who will need additional help and I think the problem has partly been that people who need that additional health have been reluctant to come forward."

He said people have been worried about whether services were operating, as well as about catching Covid-19. 

He said "A&E was the last place" someone experiencing a mental health crisis should be, and that local services including a "crisis café" were rolled out during the pandemic to help meet need. 

Ham&High: Our Community's Mental Health

Ham&High: Our Community's Mental Health - Credit: Archant

Most Read

Dr Eziefula, from Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, agreed there was a mismatch in services, but said it is vital to raise peoples' awareness of services which could intervene before someone reached a crisis point. 

She said: "It's all about getting help, as soon as you need it, when there are warning signs well before you've got to the point where you're struggling at the end of the line."

Dr Eziefula spoke of how the impact of the pandemic on people's jobs had a detrimental mental health impact. 

She said: "For many people work is a huge part of their identity, and without it, that becomes a major loss."

Dr Moore sought to reassure anyone suffering from mental ill health.

He said: "You have to use this word carefully, but it is very normal that we're all having a struggle. And it is very normal and natural that some will be having a bigger struggle than others. And we'll need some help and support."

Dr Moore said loneliness had been, in his experience, a key factor in the rise in mental ill health during the pandemic. 

He said: "I think we all know that loneliness can be a killer and that, actually, your chance of premature death is 42% higher if you're also reporting as highly lonely.

"It's not just being alone, but being feeling lonely in your family or being alone. And it's different from isolation."

Speaking to those who might be blaming themselves for mental health issues, Dr Moore added: "It's so important that we don't add to the other struggles we're having by feeling guilty for where we're at. When we're coping with something, we draw on our resources, we draw on our resources inside from friends and family around. And we've all got different levels of those resources."

He continued: "It's not a matter of blame. It is a matter of recognising it and being honest with ourselves and saying: 'Yes, I can recognise that I am now struggling beyond just feeling the distress of the situation.'

"Don't hesitate to get help when you get to that stage, because it's easier to get help and intervene when you get it early."

Marjorie agreed, and said it is important people feel able come forward. She said if they are struggling, organisations like SANE can help them find appropriate support for whatever mental distress they are suffering. 

"Get in touch with people like us because we can help people reach the services that are available," she said. 

"Don't be afraid of that, there's no judgement, you'll just be talking to people who have some understanding of what you might be going through."

For help and advice, people suffering from mental ill health or who are worried about others can visit:

  • sane.org.uk: SANE's website includes details of how to call their helpline and resources for those struggling. To donate, visit www.sane.org.uk/how_you_can_help/donate
  • The Camden and Islington NHS Trust's crisis line - for those in acute distress - is 020 3317 6333
  • good-thinking.uk: a London-wide website offering mental wellbeing support
  • icope.nhs.uk: Run by the Camden and Islington NHS Trust, this offers support and the ability to self-refer for appointments