Referrals to mental health charity more than doubled

A MENTAL health charity has seen a dramatic rise in demand, leading to a need to find thousands in extra funding, while Health & Social Care has seen a slight drop in referrals.

Guernsey Mind executive director Emily Litten. (29673561)
Guernsey Mind executive director Emily Litten. (29673561)

During the first five months of 2019, HSC’s six mental health services saw an average of 175 monthly referrals. This fell to 137 in 2020 and lockdown, but then rose again to 150 in the first five months of this year.

The committee is now planning to improve care services with the launch of a ‘crisis centre pilot’, aiming for better understanding of the experiences and needs of patients and providers.

Guernsey Mind, the island’s leading mental health charity, has seen referrals rise from 30 a month in 2019 to an average of 80 a month now. Some are referred to social support, some to one-to-one therapy, and some to Mind user groups.

‘We’ve seen a dramatic upturn,’ said Guernsey Mind executive director Emily Litten.

‘It’s definitely related to Covid in some way, but maybe the referral criteria has changed as well.’

Case complexity has increased too.

‘We’re seeing a lot more people with trauma, personality disorders, autism and other complex cases. There are some people coming in that probably shouldn’t be seen outside of the States-funded area.’

After an initial referral, Guernsey Mind aims for the client to have a first therapy session within two weeks. Currently 130 people are seeing one-to-one therapists, all provided for free or by donation.

‘We offer people up to 12 sessions of one-to-one therapy, although we can extend this if our therapists decide it is required,’ said Ms Litten. ‘An initial session with a referral coach helps us to identify what is the best route for individuals in our service.’

More than 400 people attend the charity’s community groups, with numbers growing all the time, and some private therapists are taking Mind clients for lower rates exclusively, to satisfy the demand.

As a result, the charity’s costs have rise by £200,000 in the past two years, with total annual service costs now running at £600,000. Ms Litten said that support had been phenomenal.

Guernsey Mind has no official pathway to refer service users into States secondary care, so instead extended its services.

Various treatments are available from two in-house psychotherapists in Guernsey and Alderney, plus another 15 private therapists in the community, including biodynamic craniosacral therapists, volunteer counsellors and equine therapists.

There are some 1,850 patients using HSC services at any one time, split between child and adolescent mental health services and adult/older adult mental health services.

Most referrals are received by the duty and intervention team, and are prioritised based on information provided from a GP, which may lead to continued care under a GP rather than through secondary care.

Due to Covid and restrictions placed on islanders, in 2020 routine referrals closed, and only emergency and urgent cases from GPs and the hospital were accepted.

That led to atypical results, an HSC spokeswoman said, but this year the services were better equipped.

‘We therefore remained open to all levels of referrals, including routine, hence the numbers have remained relatively static.’

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