Why I Support the 123GP Campaign for Access to Counselling in GP Practices

Marie Quiery, a practising psychotherapist, explains her reasons for supporting the 123GP Campaign. Marie Quiery  |  Mon Mar 15 2021
Marie Quiery and 123GP campaigners outside the Health and Social Care Board in Belfast
Counselling can't solve problems associated with inequality but it allows people to access support and relieve the isolation caused by that inequality.

Most of us now know someone who is struggling with anxiety or depression – sometimes that person is ourselves. If you are surviving on a low income, are female or lesbian, gay or trans then chances are that you will have more experience of poor mental health than others. People who have first-hand experience of our mental health services have given voice to an often silent and silenced group of people through the 123GP campaign. They aim to improve access and resources to counselling through our GP practices.

For many people their GP practice is the first place that they will go to for support and advice. In a society where there is still a taboo attached to poor mental health, it is important that people become aware that most mental health problems are a normal response to an abnormal situation and that early intervention and support is essential. GP’s can play a major part in getting proper support and help to avoid more serious mental health issues.

Recent research by the Department of Health reveals that we have higher levels of anxiety and depression than elsewhere in these islands. We cannot underestimate the impact that high levels of poverty can have on emotional and mental health. Many of the support services, youth provision, community centres and support groups are currently closed. So it is even more crucial that GPs can offer initial support through counselling.

As a practising psychotherapist, I see at first hand the impact of inequality on our emotional and mental health.

Yet only 70% of GP practices take up the finances available to enable them to provide counselling services. While I can appreciate the pressure that many GP practices experience, additional counselling services, in my opinion, will provide longer term solutions to these pressures. I welcome the 123GP campaign*,* which is directly tackling this issue and also calling for an increase in resources to support counselling provision.

As a practising psychotherapist, I see at first hand the impact of inequality on our emotional and mental health and, while counselling won’t solve all the associated problems, it enables people to access support and relieves the isolation many people feel while under the stress created by inequality.

I support the 123GP campaign and call on government to increase funding for mental health provision. Only 5.3% of the current health budget is directed towards mental health compared with 12% in England. Early support and intervention will begin to address our increasing mental health problems and will also save money in the long-term. Counselling has been demonstrated to lower the spending on anti-depressants and other medication. We urgently need to tackle the increasing inequality experienced in our society and ensure a more positive future for everyone.

Marie Quiery has practiced as a Gestalt therapist, supervisor and trainer for over 25 years. She is the author of Our Health and Well Being - Your Business and Guidelines on Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health and Social Care.