Luckily, in recent years, we have seen more and more people talking about their mental health more openly than ever before. It seems that the taboo has lifted.
But now that people are addressing their mental health issues and reaching out for support, it’s time to start discussing the next steps of that.
What is the state of mental healthcare in the UK in 2023?
Let’s start with the facts. As it’s difficult to list and discuss every single mental health issue out there, let’s talk about some of the most (unfortunately) common. In the UK, over 8 million people are experiencing an anxiety disorder at one time. Around 1 in 6 adults in the UK are experiencing depression, or depressive symptoms.
And when it comes to the workplace, these mental health issues don’t stay at home. 56% of employees are experiencing symptoms of depression. 60% are dealing with anxiety. More than one in three colleagues report they ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ turn up for work when sick, according to Sabio research. This means they’re entering the workplace when they don’t feel well, and may in turn be making their health even worse by doing so.
The above figures are already difficult to face. And that’s before you dive into the stats for other disorders – such as BPD, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and more.
What does the CX for mental health treatment look like?
Those with mental health conditions are some of our most vulnerable in society. If left untreated and to tackle their issues alone with no hope, they can be a danger to themselves. Keep that in mind as you discover the stats for waiting times for mental healthcare:
- 23% of mental health patients wait at least 12 weeks to start their treatment
- 43% say that the wait between initial referral and second appointment has cause their mental health to worsen. These second appointments are usually when the treatment begins – whether this be the therapy programme or similar
- For more than one in ten cases, waits can be longer than six months. 6% of patients are waiting for more than a year
As more patients join these lists, the waiting time will only increase due to a lack of (consultant) psychiatrists. Across the UK, 1.6 million people are currently on a waiting list for specialised mental health treatment. An additional eight million who would benefit from support can’t even get onto a waiting list.
And that’s not all. Even those working in support contact centres are fighting mental health issues, while helping others deal with their struggles. Sabio found that over half of their respondents in their Call Centre Management Association research felt one of the following:
- Emotionally drained at the end of the work day
- Feeling lonely at work
- Having problems with their mental health due to work
- Having difficulty sleeping due to work-related stress
Put simply – mental health patients are struggling and waiting alone in the dark for support. Although NHS England is on track to increase mental health spending by £3.4 billion by next year, there is more that can be done in the meantime.
Let’s apply our expertise to mental health
Mental health is, has, and always will be a sensitive topic. And it’s different for every one person. For companies with employees facing these challenges, or those working directly in healthcare with mental health in and out patients, the next steps can all be worked on.
And luckily, we have knowledge from best practice, successful customer experiences to assist us. We know the best ways to reach out to our customers, engage with them to let them know we care, and keep them retained. So why not apply similar strategies to our reach out to those struggling with their mental health? Let’s put CX into mental healthcare.
Tailoring the proactive approach
When it comes to mental health, having people reach out to you means everything. If you’re struggling, especially with anxiety, the last thing you feel like you can do is message someone else first to let them know you need support. This is where a proactive approach is so beneficial, and could be life-saving.
If a healthcare company is able to reach out to those on therapy waiting lists on a semi-regular basis, that will only let the patient know they haven’t been abandoned on their road to support. Even if it’s a short message to say “You’re still on our support waiting list, you’ll hear from us soon. We hope you are doing well. In the meantime, here are some helplines” – these will go such a long way. Customers of any kind like to be reminded that the company are thinking of them and want to help them.
The main point is that mental health support does not fall under one all-encompassing approach. There must be different ways to deal with different patients and their struggles. It’s not so straight forward to just use the same tactic on every patient waiting on mental health support.
If you know you’re reaching out to a patient dealing with anxiety, you should have information on what is the best way to approach them. If you know that phonecalls make them anxious, avoid that reach-out, and opt for an email or SMS instead. If you’re reaching out to ask an eating disorder patient how they’re coping, be sensitive about the language you’re using.
Tailor their experience to what they need. Not only will you make them feel better in the meantime for your consideration, you’re letting them know you care about their needs.
Talking and researching in the workplace
This all comes down to equipping your employees with the right tools to effectively carry out these approaches. Any good CX strategy needs a plan of action. Work on some of these tactics with your employees on how to help your mental health patients and better your outreach to them:
- Journey mapping and planning your customer touchpoints; emotional state reports
- Workshops on educating your employees on different mental illnesses, and how the approaches to each differs (in language, communication formats, etc)
- Building feedback platforms for your patients to help you improve for specifically what they need
- Foster a working environment and community that welcomes open conversations about their mental health. Be proactive to your employees about their mental health too – ask them how they’re doing and coping
Let’s all be more considerate in this age of mental wellbeing awareness
A key point to take away from this article is that so many people are struggling with their mental health – perhaps more than you may think. And that includes your employees; the people running behind the companies treating mental health patients. Who looks after them? These tips apply to them too.
But if you want to protect them too and give them a good experience with being open about their mental health, apply the same proactive, sensitive approaches to them. And create an environment that welcomes open conversation and the chance to talk. If we can all be a little more sensitive and considerate about the language and environments we build, and improve our outreaches, support can improve. Take care of your employees to take care of your patients. Treat your patients with the same amazing strategies we know work well in CX. Mental health is no light or easy topic, but it’s one we can all work together on to make it a little bit less difficult on each other.