Today sees publication of a letter signed by 200 well-known people calling for equality between physical and mental health treatment. It's a great start but it's not enough. Thousands should be signing in protest of the treatment of people with mental health issues.
The mental healthcare system in the UK is crumbling. As more people are referred for treatment its resources are spread more thinly than ever before - and people's lives are being put at risk. I know because I'm one of those people.
I've lived with depression most of my life. It was nearly four years ago that I finally got a diagnosis. I could no longer continue to pretend to cope with life and quickly hit rock bottom as I started to unravel. My GP referred me to the local crisis team, who in time referred me to the community mental health team. I was assigned a care coordinator, a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist.
I had regular appointments that were important anchors in the following months of chaos and pain. It also meant that any deterioration in my condition was spotted early and could be treated. Those appointments kept me safe and kept me fighting. I wouldn't be here without them.
In August 2014, my care coordinator went on sick leave. She hasn't returned and nobody has ever taken her place. The impact of support being suddenly withdrawn was catastrophic. I became too anxious to sleep and day-to-day life was an overwhelming struggle. I still saw my therapist most weeks and he tried as much as his role would allow to put practical support in place, but the system was under so much strain that it never amounted to much - just one appointment with a support worker who made it clear that I was an additional burden on her time.
In June of this year, my therapist retired. He'd worked with me over a period of some months to prepare me for the end of my treatment and to some extent it worked. We had a good ending, but the realities of being left with no support hit me even harder than when my care coordinator became ill.
I couldn't see how I could recover alone, nor could I see how it was possible to continue living with my mental health issues. Once again, I felt suicidal and overcame every protecting factor that had so far kept me safe. I couldn't bear the torrent of emotional pain I was feeling.
When you're at such a point in your life, there's always a small part of you that wants to survive. That part of me picked up the phone and called my local mental health team. I told the support worker how I was feeling. The reply I got leaves me speechless, even now. She told me that "everyone has dark days and other people manage fine without support."
I have friends who've called for help when they've been suicidal and they've simply been advised that they'll feel better if they have a cup of tea or a bath to calm them down. Really. Imagine the outrage if someone phoning for help with symptoms of a heart attack was told similar.
Thankfully, the response I got from the support worker didn't fuel my feelings of hopelessness. Instead I got angry. In that moment I decided that I would no longer tolerate my experiences being dismissed or minimised. I saw the bigger picture - that there are thousands of people in the same place as me - and so I started channeling my anger into campaigning for better quality of care for people with mental health issues.
As a response to today's letter calling for parity of esteem, the government remain adamant that they're investing in mental health and see it as a priority, but the reality is very different. The £11 billion committed to mental health won't even begin to paper over cracks and when you do manage to receive any treatment, the quality is so much worse than before - my local trust have replaced long-term psychotherapy with a short course of group CBT.
The scale of what needs to be done is at times overwhelming. The absence of any support or treatment from the NHS makes recovery even harder than it has to be, but I have my cause; my reason to get up every day and continue fighting. I have saved myself - but am left with a sense of dread for the thousands of others out there.Suggest a correction