KARIN Goodwin’s article in the Sunday National (Routes out of lockdown: Mental Health, May 17) was very timely. It’s true that some people have found, paradoxically, that they are struggling less with their mental health at the moment.

However, that isn’t the general pattern. There are so many elements in the current situation, from isolation to health worries and from financial difficulties to altogether too much time to ruminate, that impact negatively on our mental health.

At the best of times there is relatively little mental health provision from the NHS. Medication from GPs (and medication is not always appropriate or helpful); referrals to CBT websites; or, if you are very lucky, brief therapy at your surgery, often with a trainee.

If you are considered to be at risk or to have severe mental health issues then you may get a referral to psychology, with a year’s waiting time quite routine.

Karin Goodwin quotes: “As a sector, mental health is desperately under-resourced. It has been historically and it still is. There’s no parity at all in terms of the provision.”

That’s at the best of times. And this is not the best of times. There are, as the article mentions, helplines, staffed by volunteers with a varied level of training: some really excellent, some sketchy. There are peer support groups and some charities offer free or low-cost therapy but the waiting lists are often very long.

I would like to encourage readers who are struggling with their mental health to consider searching out a private therapist.

The general impression is that they are extremely expensive, with the result people often don’t even seek them out, but that is not necessarily true. Many therapists have a sliding scale of fees – their full fee may be £40 an hour or more, but it is worth asking what concessions they offer. The Counselling Directory recently introduced a section in profiles stating whether the therapist offers concessions for low waged or, at the moment, for key workers. Many do.

Some of us, those who believe that nobody should be denied therapy due to lack of means, have always done.

The BACP directory is searchable for therapists who offer concessionary rates.

There is also the Free Psychotherapy Network. The therapists and organisations in it are mostly (though not all) based in England, but if a therapist is working by video, telephone or email, geography doesn’t matter.

Every therapist in that network has some capacity for non-paying and low-paying clients. And there are other directories; for example COSCA, NCS, ACTO (specifically for online therapy: video, telephone and email) and so on.

I suppose my main message is: try the NHS first by all means, and the helplines. But don’t decide you can’t afford private therapy without checking. We counsellors and psychotherapists have chosen our work because we care about other human beings. We do listen, we don’t dismiss or fob off, and kindness is most definitely our policy.

Max Marnau


I WONDER if Close the Gap has ever found any other result (Virus ‘will worsen’ labour market gender inequality, The National, May 18). Given men are hit harder for longer by this virus, and are dying at a far higher rate, what would have to happen for a gender studies group to find in favour of men?

Eventually we will have to wake up to the fact divisive politics and narrow-minded misandry only serve to divide the people and enrich large corporations by driving down wages. We need a humanist approach to change society for the better, where we can all work together instead of treating men like the enemy.