Access to Psychotherapy: A key component of mental health equity

Getting mental health support in the UK - including access to psychotherapy and psychotherapeutic counselling – is patchy. According to a study conducted by NHS Digital, only one in three people with mental health issues are able to access mental health support. And discrimination, racism, trauma, stigma, poverty, working conditions among other issues can make it harder for some people to access what help may be available.


Discrimination in access to care

People from marginalised communities in the UK have worse mental health outcomes and reduced access to mental health support. Findings from research commissioned by Mind in 2021, found that over a third of respondents experienced stigma or discrimination when seeking mental health support.

According to the Stonewall’s LGBT in Britain Health Report (2018),  one in seven respondents who identified as LGBTQ+ reported avoiding treatment for fear of discrimination. The Cabinet Office reported that despite having a higher prevalence of mental health issues, Black adults were the least likely of all the ethnic groups to receive mental health support. And inequities still persist once individuals have received mental health support. For example, Black and Black British adults are four to five times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act than white adults.

Socioeconomic factors play a major role in whether people are able to access psychotherapy. Many turn to the NHS for mental health support that is free at the point of use. In 2021-22, Talking Therapies for Anxiety and Depression services received over one million referrals. However, access to mental health support does not guarantee equity in receiving care. And the way in which the care options are presented may limit the person’s ability to exercise choice. Waiting lists also prevent people from accessing mental health care in a timely manner.


What needs to change?

We are calling on the government to prioritise policies and initiatives that promote mental health equity so everyone can access therapy. To fulfil this urgent priority the NHS must expand services, offering a genuine choice of talking therapies to service users.

Addressing discrimination in access to care will ensure that therapy in practice effectively meets the needs of individuals from all communities, including those impacted by societal inequalities. This will greatly improve the quality of life for many marginalised people.


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