For World Mental Health Day 2021 we asked readers if they felt there is enough mental health support in Salisbury, and the overwhelming majority thought more needs to be done.

We received 56 comments suggesting more support is needed, the remaining comments signposting services. 

The main themes within the comments were that there isn't enough support for adults or children, support is not localised enough, and the waiting lists are too long. 

The impact of the pandemic on health and social care services has been “intensely damaging” with a “significant increase” in concerns over children and young people’s mental health, according to the latest UK Care study 2020/2021 report published by the Care Quality Commission today. 

Do children get enough mental health support?

Multiple readers brought up concerns that there is not enough support for children, one reader stressing “especially for teenagers”. 

On the other hand, one reader felt the focus was on children’s mental health: “which is good for the future but what about right now there is nothing for long term suffering adults who are just trying to live a normal life.”

The Bridge Youth Project, a Christian charity based in Salisbury that helps school children with their mental health, has seen the number of children needing their support increase over Covid according to Director Alex Ewing. 

The father-of-two said: “Services need to be a bit more joined up. I think there is a lot out there, but young people need to be able to access them a bit better. 

“Also, I think there has been such a stigma around mental health and thankfully it feels like we’ve addressed a lot of that and people are a lot more willing to talk about how they’re struggling with their mental health. And that’s fantastic. 

“But I still think there’s some work to be done around normalising it even more, and that anxiety can sometimes be a good thing; like meeting friends or doing something a bit daunting like public speaking in their lesson. 

"It can be a good thing and they shouldn’t be scared of it. So there is a balance we need to get.”

The Bridge Youth project works directly with 26 primary and secondary schools in Wiltshire and is based at Sarum Academy. 

Is there enough mental health support in Salisbury?

Multiple readers mentioned how mental health support is not localised enough, although one reader signposted the Riverside Sanctuary in Salisbury.

One reader commented: “Most 'Salisbury' mental health support services are based in Devizes... A great shame.”

Another reader commented: “The support is non-existent, the funding is zero and the after care is abysmal.”

Salisbury’s current Mayor Caroline Corbin, an ambassador for Mental Health, asked this same question about mental health provision in 2019 when she organised the first ‘Mental Health Roadshow’ which brought together both campaigners and practitioners at the Guildhall. 

She said: “I understand the frustration of it because when you’re in need, or you have somebody in your family who that’s in need, and you can’t easily access it, then it makes it even more stressful. 

On finding mental health provision in Salisbury, she said: “Although there is a lot out there you do have to dig for it.

“The residents have expressed their concerns and it’s the referral route, it’s how you refer and where you go. Well, some people don’t actually realise you can self-refer [...] they often go the GP route which is slow.

“It’s that horrible situation of not enough funding, not enough resources, and just things that are very expensive.”

On a more personal note, Caroline added: “I think everybody struggles at one point of their life. 

“I did the training to support someone else, and from that I’ve always advocated that you learn as much about yourself by doing the training as you do to help others.”

Long waiting lists and the response from local NHS CCG

The majority of readers highlighted how the long waiting lists for NHS services are particularly demoralising, individuals highlighting issues with GP referrals, lack of support in a crisis from 111, and being driven to seek help privately at a high cost. 

A reader said: “Whenever they say on TV or these campaigns just speak up. Some people do speak up. There just isn’t the help. There never had been. Most call for help and get told sorry you have to wait 6-8 weeks for an appointment. When you get there they tell you sorry we can’t help. 

“One main symptom in my illness is fear of abandonment. The most I’ve ever felt abandoned is by medical professionals.”

Clinical Director for Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire, at Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust Nicola Hazle said: “We provide specialist NHS mental health services in Wiltshire, working collaboratively with other NHS, social care and third sector partners to deliver a range of services to support people with serious mental illness and mental wellbeing.

“If you are struggling with your mental health, there are lots of useful resources available online which can help. You can also self-refer to our Wiltshire Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service or speak to your GP.

"If you are an existing AWP patient, you should contact the team outlined in your care plan to support you or you can call our 24/7 helpline on 0800 953 1919.

"Our highly trained staff can offer professional advice and support, or direct you to the most appropriate service.”

A spokesperson for the NHS Bath and North East Somerset, Wiltshire and Swindon CCG which is responsible for mental health services in the county: “Supporting local people’s mental health remains a priority area for the CCG, and we have been working with people with lived experience, as well as families, carers, supporters and our system partners, to co-create mental health support that meets the changing needs of our population.  

“Our focus has been on early intervention and prevention and, within Wiltshire, the Riverside Sanctuary in Salisbury offers support for people struggling with their mental wellbeing, and is available to all local people both over the telephone on 01772 466680 and in-person.

“Elsewhere, new services have been introduced, such as dedicated mental health support in ambulance control, and we are looking at doing more locally, including introducing home treatment for children and young people and increasing holistic checks for those with mental illness.

“Around 20 new wellbeing practitioners have also been recently recruited, and this will help us to deliver a new community-based mental health service.”

Here is a directory of mental health services from the CCG website.

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