Dame Caroline Spelman MP has pledged to help overhaul local care for Parkinson’s after a report revealed an insufficient amount of mental health support for the condition – despite anxiety and depression being amongst its most common symptoms.
Attending the launch of the report, Mental Health Matters Too on Wednesday 9 May, Dame Caroline expressed her concern that nearly half of all people with Parkinson’s experience mental health symptoms, such as anxiety and depression yet only a quarter of those affected receive any treatment for it.
Compared with the general population, people diagnosed with Parkinson's are more than twice as likely to experience depression and anxiety, which is triggered by changes in the brain caused by the condition.
However, the results of a year-long inquiry reveal the psychological aspects of Parkinson’s are being ignored by the health system, and many with the condition are waiting months, or even years, to get the mental health support they need.
The research was conducted by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Parkinson’s, and Dame Caroline is now supporting its calls to overhaul the NHS and deliver a more ‘joined up’ approach to care for all aspects of the condition.
The Meriden MP said: “This is an extremely important report. It highlights how there is currently an insufficient level of mental health support for patients with the condition, which must be addressed. I have made a commitment today to reach out to our local health authorities to discuss how we can ensure that people with Parkinson’s in Meriden and the wider West Midlands get timely and effective treatment that addresses not just the physical symptoms, but the psychological symptoms too.”
Research for the report, provided by charity Parkinson’s UK, shows that the hidden psychological symptoms of Parkinson’s are one of the biggest challenges faced by many people with the condition. Of those who experience psychological symptoms:
- 72% say their mental health has affected their ability to socialise
- Half (50%) find it harder to leave the house
- More than a quarter (27%) have felt suicidal
Additionally, anxiety and depression are a particular concern for people with Parkinson’s as they have been shown to worsen other symptoms, such as tremor or ‘freezing’.
Baroness Gale, who is Co-Chair of the APPG on Parkinson's, said: “My father lived with Parkinson’s, so I know first-hand the impact that this incurable neurological condition can have on all areas of a person’s life - and the wide array of support needed.
“Although it’s clear the vast majority of people with Parkinson’s receive treatment to manage their easily-recognisable physical symptoms, such as tremor and rigidity, hardly any have access to the support they need for mental health symptoms until it’s too late.
“We hope that this report will be the catalyst needed to raise awareness of this hidden aspect of the condition and prompt much-needed changes to the NHS’s approach to mental health for people with Parkinson’s.”
For more information on key findings and recommendations from the inquiry, Mental Health Matters Too can be accessed via the Parkinson’s UK website on
www.parkinsons.org.uk/mentalhealthmatters. For advice, information and support call the charity’s free, confidential helpline on 0808 800 0303.