The more mentally unwell you are, the longer you wait for care, according to a new damning report by charity Rethink Mental Illness

12 November 2018

The more mentally unwell you are, the longer you wait for care, according to a new damning report by charity Rethink Mental Illness.

People with lifelong, severe and complex conditions like schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder are waiting an average of 14 weeks for an assessment, leaving some feeling suicidal.

The report, entitled Right Treatment, Right Time was published on 19 November setting out the problem and the solution, according to those affected and professionals on ground.

In a survey Rethink Mental Illness carried out with 1,602 people with, or caring for someone with, a mental illness:

  • 28% were not referred to an appropriate service by their GP
  • 56% did not receive treatment in the appropriate time
  • 51% found they did not receive treatment for a sufficient and appropriate length of time
  • 20 people* said they had thought about suicide following inadequate treatment for their mental health conditions

Anne*, a carer who took part in the survey, said:  

“These answers are on behalf of my husband, who sadly took his own life six weeks ago. There was inadequate support and too long a wait for crucial therapy. He was originally under the home treatment team after a suicide attempt, then transferred to the mental health team after a few weeks. The level of care and support under this service was appalling, despite my husband constantly expressing suicidal thoughts. I truly believe that, if he had received talking therapy sooner, he would still be here.”

Kay*, who took part in the survey, told us:

“I’ve been in recovery since 2013 and I’m now tired and suicidal. I want counselling, someone to talk to without judgement, but I was told that counsellors don’t like to take on people with my diagnosis, which is borderline personality disorder. I’m struggling with rejection and loneliness as it is. This in itself makes me more suicidal and dead inside.”

Brian Dow, deputy CEO at Rethink Mental Illness said:

“What we want is right treatment, right time but what we too often have is wrong treatment, too late. Thousands of people find themselves in desperate situations every year, but have to contend with long waits, bureaucracy, and a severe lack of choice about their care. The result is that far too many people reach crisis point before getting help.

“Our advice service is overwhelmed by phone calls from people with complex and severe mental illness who are struggling to access crucial NHS services. There has been lots of effort to improve things and the upcoming NHS England long-term plan is a golden opportunity to meet the challenge of 21st century mental healthcare.”

Ahead of the NHS long-term plan due to be published later this month, Rethink Mental Illness’ Right Treatment, Right Time report sets out a comprehensive set of recommendations that will help ensure those with severe and complex mental health needs get the care they need, including:

  • Access standards, for example everyone with psychosis should receive NICE-approved treatment.
  • Waiting times, for example everyone with psychosis should receive treatment within two weeks.
  • No time limit on care – people should receive treatment for as long as is necessary.
  • Expectations on choices about what treatment to receive, including therapies
    and social prescriptions

Please visit the Rethink Mental Illness website to read the report in full.


For more information contact the Rethink Mental Illness media team on 0207 840 3138 or 

*Some names have been changed to protect poeple's anonymity. 

About the data

The statistics used in this report appear in Right Treatment, Right Time and are based on a survey of 1602 people with either direct or carer experience of mental health care in England.

The survey ran between August and September 2018.

*20 people said they had experienced suicidal thoughts in the free text boxes in the survey.

About Rethink Mental Illness

Rethink Mental Illness is a leading charity provider of mental health services in England. They support tens of thousands of people through groups, services and advice and information. They train employees, employers and members of the public on how best to support someone affected by mental illness. All of this work guides their campaigning for the rights of people with mental illness and their carers.

Rethink Mental Illness runs an advice and information service for people who are affected by mental illness. Lines are open 9:30am-4pm Monday to Friday (excluding Bank Holidays) and the number is 0300 5000 927 (calls are charged at local rates) or you can email

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