ALMOST 18,000 Wearsiders sought help for mental health conditions last year – up by nearly 2,000.
Figures obtained after a Freedom of Information request by the Echo show that 17,879 people from Sunderland contacted Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust (NTW) in the 12 months between April 2012 and 2013, up from 15,961 the same period the year before.
The main age group of those asking for help was people aged 20 to 29 – 2,895 between 2012 and 2013 – an increase from 2,679 between 2011 to 2012.
A spokesman for NTW – which covers Cherry Knowle Hospital in Ryhope and Monkwearmouth Hospital – said that while the figures do not represent the underlying rate of mental illness on Wearside, it does show an increase in the number of people asking for help.
“It is acknowledged that there may be an increase in people suffering mental distress and illness due to the impact of wider economic changes,” she added.
“The extent of this in the general population of Sunderland cannot be determined using the data; it does demonstrate, however, that NTW is responding appropriately to a greater number of requests for assistance.”
Toby Sweet, service manager at Sunderland Counselling Service, said it has seen a big increase in referrals.
He said the number of people receiving help from the organisation increased from 162 in January 2012, to 179 in January of this year.
He also said that people were contacting the service for reasons other than those it usually deals with, such as bereavement, depression, anger, relationship problems and childhood issues.
People contacting the service for other reasons, rose from 292 between 2011 to 2012, to 657 between 2012 and 2013.
Toby said: “I could speculate as to the reason for such an increase in people accessing the service, but it would only be speculation and not backed by evidence.
“However, we have indeed recorded a significant increase in referrals year-on-year.”
NTW said that following extensive consultation with GPs, councils and people who used the service in 2012, a new system for accessing specialist mental health services was introduced in Sunderland.
The spokesman added: “The single telephone contact point makes it easier for the general public and health and social care professionals to contact the Trust.
“Then from the initial contact, the caller can be signposted to appropriate services or assessed by specialist NTW teams.
“It has been found to be greatly valued by users, and the increase in contacts from the data reflects improved access to advice and assessment.”
l To get in touch with The Initial Response Team call, 0303 123 1145.