Access and wait times

One of the major themes in the stories is problems related to accessing mental health care - especially timely access and early access before a situation has escalated to a serious or even crisis situation. Approximately a third of the stories (179) were about access. Of that 179, 84 stories specifically expressed concern or commented on excessive wait times, while 14 talked about the need for early intervention.

“The system talks about early intervention, but it doesn’t deliver this.  A person has to be severely unwell before action is taken.”

A lot of people expressed confusion and even despair at the lack of services available to people experiencing mental distress who were not yet in the grip of a life-threatening crisis.

“Since October I’ve had four doctor appointments — in the the first two I was essentially (and once, literally) told “chin up” after tearfully conveying to them my depression and anxiety and desire to not exist. The third was supposed to be a huge win — I was referred to a local mental health services clinic to assess whether I could get public health support. After two weeks of no follow-up, and ringing daily to hear back from them, it turned out my information hadn’t been taken anywhere. So I emailed my GP in desperation. Finally, it was taken higher up and the results came back immediately: they didn’t think I fit the criteria to get public funding. I sobbed on the phone to my GP, feeling incredibly helpless. I’d waited so long. I was told that this appointment was what I had to wait for, to keep my chin up for. And then nothing.”

One person described this as the ‘grey zone’ and wondered how many people were lost in it.

"Less than a month ago I experienced an anxiety attack that worsened and started taking me down, very suddenly and quickly. I don't qualify for the services because I'm not a physical risk to myself or others. Not yet. But maybe prolonged lack of services allows mental health to decline to the point I am considered dangerous enough to see someone. In the meantime, I struggle through in a grey-zone of "too healthy to get free services, but too sick and unemployed to afford private services." I wonder just how large this grey zone of "lost" people is?"

But the strain is not only on services that would support early intervention, the stories submitted to this review also described a lack of resources for crisis response, including a lack of trained staff and beds to provide appropriate care for people who are at risk of suicide.

“There are no early intervention services. At the same time there is not enough capacity in the crisis centres, both when it comes to trained staff and the number of beds. People in crisis who are suicidal get seen by a nurse, sent home with no follow up. When new people need a bed a nurse will often be the one to sign out another patient. In the regular health system it is a doctor who signs patients out. The first 24 hours after being discharged after a suicide attempt are crucial yet people get sent out on their own without making sure they are supported.”