Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) is a programme which began in 2009 and has transformed the treatment of adults presenting with anxiety and depression. It aims to provide people with psychological treatment within 28 days of a referral. Enabling people to access the right support at the right time is a central mission for this service.
Whilst working in third sector Mental Health Services, I was heartened when the IAPT service launched. Typically the clients I would see were experiencing moderate to severe mental health problems. Often as their story unravelled they would describe very normal life events such as experiencing a stressful event or trauma. This is turn would impact on their working life and personal relationships, possibly resulting in losing their job and a breakdown in the relationship with their partner. They would become a shadow of their formed self, feeling lost with low confidence, self esteem and no real hope for the future. Time and time again I would wonder what would have happened to that person if they had just got help at an earlier point. With support they may have navigated their way through the difficulties without the same level of suffering and loss.
According to NHS England over 900,000 people now access IAPT services every year. However a review conducted by Mind in 2017 “We still need to talk” concluded that whilst IAPT services has had a positive impact, demand continues to increase and people are waiting too long to access the service. They found:
- One in 10 people have been waiting over a year to receive treatment.
- Over half have been waiting over three months to receive treatment.
- Around 13 per cent of people are still waiting for their first assessment for psychological therapy.
These are sobering statistics and I cannot help but think about the human cost of these waiting times.
Luckily there are many private counsellors who are able to support and help people at the point they feel they need support. Some people may consider it to be cost they would rather spend on other things. Others might think “why should I pay for something which I can get for free on the NHS?” Ultimately we all have to ask ourselves how much we value our mental health?
Getting the right support at the right time is priceless.