More funding needed to fight mental illness 'epidemic', says Mark Austin

Newsreader Mark Austin has said the care of people with mental illness in the UK is not sufficient and more funding is required to combat an “epidemic” among youngsters.

The former ITV newscaster spoke of his daughter Maddy’s battle with anorexia in her teens in a Sunday Times article, and has said he is raising awareness to encourage funding for more care units and training for counsellors.

He also said social media may be having an impact on girls when it comes to mental illnesses such as anorexia.

Mark Austin (ITV/This Morning/grab)

Mark said that, following the publication of his article – in which he admitted an initial failure to understand Maddy’s condition – he has been contacted by another father struggling to cope with his daughter’s eating disorder, and that she has been sent to a facility 300 miles from the family home.

Mark said on This Morning: “What sort of society puts a young, vulnerable girl 300 miles from her parents and what sort of society treats mental health the way this society treats mental health?

“If you get knocked over by a bus in a town centre you will receive probably some of the best medical emergency care in the world.

“If you get depression or you get a mental health issue, you will not receive anything like the best medical help in the world.”

He said it does not matter “how much knowledge” there is about the problem because money is the answer.

Mark said: “What matters is money, what matters are new units, places kids and teenagers can go if they’re feeling suicidal, places they can go and see someone, see trained counsellors.

“We need to train hundreds more counsellors in eating disorders and mental health. There needs to be places you can go straight away.

“What’s the point of giving someone who is feeling suicidal an appointment in 13 weeks?”

Mark said his wife, an A&E doctor, tells him of the struggles facing emergency wards and that he understands that is another issue.

“But if we’ve got politicians saying the idea is to have parity between physical health and mental health, that needs to be backed up by money.

“It’s all about priorities. What we’re facing here is potentially an epidemic in mental health problems, particularly in young people. Whether it’s caused by too much social media, the misuse of social media…

“The pressure on young girls in particular to live a certain lifestyle, to look perfect. I don’t know what the cause is, but if we’re facing that kind of epidemic then we need to do something about it.

“And if we don’t do something soon – and this is why I’m trying to speak out a bit – I think it’ll be too late for a generation.”

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