Better support and treatment are needed to recognise links between MS and mental health
This #mentalhealthawarenessweek, MS Research has been asking why psychological support and treatment for people with MS is hard to find. Of course, the current NHS staffing crisis means there are simply not enough clinical psychologists and mental health staff. However, there are also other reasons.
The more obvious physical symptoms affecting most people with MS, making coping with the condition a real burden. Problems with mobility, eyesight, continence etc., are high on any list of difficult MS symptoms. In our experience, fatigue also rates very highly as one of the most difficult symptoms to live with.
The cross-over between long-term management of lifelong conditions and mental health support is very clear. When we rolled out our FACETS course to help individuals manage MS fatigue, we quickly learned that for those who have MS, it is not just the physical and outward signs of their MS that bother them. It is the unseen or unrecognized symptoms, and the lack of help and support to cope with them that make life more difficult.
This led us to consider what other unseen impacts of MS could be addressed. Anxiety, loss of confidence, feeling overwhelmed, anger and depression. At their worst, these can all lead to a need to escape from the impact of MS with drugs, and even suicidal thoughts.
Over many years we have seen incredible resilience but also in extreme cases some very sad solutions, such as suicide or even euthanasia, to the difficulties of life with MS.
A new plan
With new plans to reform the NHS better support may be on the way. The new plans for the NHS and social care pathways state many hopeful expressions about “joined-up thinking” and “removing barriers” to better treatment.
And one area of this that has real significance for the MS community is the plan to place equal importance on the physical and mental health aspects of long-term illness. MS Research is also looking for ways to encourage more research into this long-term illness's physical and psychological aspects. We hope that this will lead to more positive solutions in MS care.