The mental health system in the UK which is provided by the NHS is failing people like me everyday; so lets see why?
Here is what the NHS have to say about accessing mental health services in the UK:
Mental health, emotional wellbeing and resilience is all about how we cope with what life throws at us. It concerns the way we feel about ourselves, conduct relationships, handle stress or deal with loss.
Good mental health and resilience are fundamental to good physical health, relationships, education and work, as well as being key to achieving our potential.
This is just an opening statement on the NHS website and already there are many issues:
- The first sentence implies that mental illness is only from environmental factors around us such as “what life throws at us” and completely negates to say that mental illness can also be a neurological condition which is visible to us on MRI scans. So for people like myself who have C-PTSD, BPD and suffer from periods of psychosis or someone who has schizophrenia, bipolar-disorder, dissociative disorders and many more are left already feeling like this does not include us.
- It goes on to say, that in order to maintain a good life: mental health, emotional wellbeing and resilience are paramount. When someone like me sees this, the complete lack of effort to include severe mental illness appears as if the NHS caters to an exclusive group which myself and others are not welcome in. Some mental illness is not “fixable” in that there is no cure and the assumption and misinformation is irresponsible and suggests that those with mental illness can be healed with a one size fits all solution.
- The word resilience frustrates me as people with severe psychiatric illnesses have no choice over resilience. We are by the very fact we have survived, mental illness has nothing to do with resilience outside of the context of psychological studies and within the day to day spectrum of a person’s life as so many variables come into play . Resilience by definition means: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. This again applies to depression and anxiety as stand alone diagnoses, which yes; when life throws the stresses of life at you and you do not cope well, this resilience is necessary and coping strategies and talking therapies within cognitive behavioural therapy are very beneficial. However let’s say you have C-PTSD or Schizophrenia where does resilience come in? It comes in as a way of coping with severe abnormalities in the brain and sever trauma, how one “copes” and shows resilience can be affected by many environmental factors and due to this without objective means of defining resilience in a singular, all-encompassing term, using resilience as a theoretical psychological concept or therapeutic instrument will not be universally consistent or correct. Read more about Psychological Resilience here.
- For us with severe mental illness the world is very different , we do not have the privilege of those who suffer from situational depression and anxiety solely. The world expects and allows us as people to feel depressed after death, or anxious after a car crash and what ever else “life throws at you”. This was not always the way, society has come leaps and bounds in the last 30 years to accept depression and anxiety in a mainstream way. This help is now widely available to the general public and society is more and more open to those who suffer from depression and anxiety as most people have had it or know someone who has. With celebrity faces, depictions in modern film, TV and literature as well as many charities and campaigns continuously running to educate the world about depression and anxiety, the world is still silent about those like myself still viewed as “crazy” or “psychotic”. Due to complex sever mental illness which are still only referenced in horror films, crime dramas, documentaries about “the criminally insane” murderers, news reports where “someone with a personality disorder has killed someone” or referenced as the go to insults for people displaying “weird” behaviours.
The NHS go on to say:
Less common conditions, such as psychosis, can make you experience changes in thinking and perception severe enough to significantly alter your experience of reality. These conditions include schizophrenia and affective psychosis, such as bipolar disorder, and can have the same lifelong impact as any long-term physical condition.
The issue here is that even within the severe mental illnesses there are some which will be focused on above so many others. With an over emphasis on Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and a general reference to psychosis. There is no mention of the most common of these disorders; C-PTSD or PTSD, there is no mention of personality disorders, dissociative disorders or to the disorders which have psychosis as a symptom. It is as if the world is not prepared to let go of the label “crazy” and still needs some of us to be under this stigmatising label so that we can be scapegoated as the deranged creatures of nightmares so that fingers can be pointed and there is a face to the monster.
This next paragraph from the NHS is misleading:
Mental illness is treatable and, with appropriate support and treatment, people do recover. Many move on with their lives and are able to care for their family, contribute to the local community, and get back into employment or training.
The sweeping statement that “mental illness is treatable” is an insult to many, it should instead read ” some mental illness can be treatable and severe mental illness is manageable with continued support and treatment”. This goes back to the generalised view that depression and anxiety are the only illnesses affecting the masses and that people can only have mental illness which is subject to your own psychological resilience.
Also some with severe mental illness like myself have symptoms from our illnesses which are depression and anxiety, so you will be offered in the NHS to have these treated rather than the severe illness which caused the symptoms of depression and anxiety. for example, I have C-PTSD, BPD and psychotic depression and due to these severe illnesses I have other illnesses which are symptoms of these, such as: GAD, agoraphobia, OCD, Adult ADHD and BDD.
And then lastly the NHS tell you what is needed but only provide one option in reality:
But this may not always be a straightforward journey. Many people only need a short course of psychological therapy or six months of medication, while others will need much more support and intensive treatment, be it medication or extended therapy.
The issue with this paragraph is again how the less complex and severe your illness is the more you are taken care of. Most people will only need a short course of medication and some focused counselling like 6 weeks of CBT if they suffer from anxiety and depression if caused by general life’s ups and downs, they may then need this again and it will be available to them throughout their lives.
However when it brushes us “the complex cases” under the carpet with the statement “while others will need much more support and treatment” this makes me very angry. As they imply they “the NHS” will provide this for us, but in fact this is NOT the case as all. You will be offered drug treatment of archaic psychotropic drugs, you will be offered short term therapy (6 weeks) and then once you have had this treatment you can not re-apply for treatment until after 6 months. So if you are not “cured” after 6 weeks, tough luck! Which as you have read is impossible for complex and severe mental illnesses.
There is no after care, the emergency lines (crisis support) they allow you to have whilst in treatment are then closed to you, (not that they answered when you were allowed to call them). Finally the pièce de résistance is that you will be told (like I have been told 3 times over the last 21 years) with no uncertain terms that “there is nothing we (the NHS) can do for you now, sorry”.
The devastation that is felt by people like me, who are unable to be part of society due to our mental illnesses due the stigma attached to us, is so overwhelming that in most cases it leads to a relapse and more often than not self-injury, suicide attempts or death. When this last happened to me last year, I suffered a further breakdown and relapse, this meant I did not take care of myself for over 6 months resulting in more ill health. If I did not have a husband who takes care of me when ill, I would have died. So what about all of those alone? What about my husband who has to deal with this on his own?
Now I ask you, is the mental health system working effectively?
Next time I shall be sharing my timeline of treatment within the NHS from age eleven to now. So follow my blog to keep up to date on my future posts.
My colleague from ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL and dear friend Jade Bryant is also exploring the NHS and its failings within the Mental Health System, please follow this link to read more and get involved by sharing your stories.
Find more art from Jade; HERE
This is the beginning stages of a campaign which ASLI (our non -profit) will be running in the near future. We hope to elevate our voices and others and then we hope to take this to the government; to bring about change as well as running workshops and programs which will aim to engage better understanding within communities, so that people like myself and Jade and so many others can be included properly in society which will inturn help us with our mental health.
Thank you for your time.
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