Having the blues, feeling down, bipolar are all forms of mental illness.
250,000 people are currently suffering from some form of mental illness in the UK. Prescriptions have risen 54 per cent since 2005 and Britain now has the second highest number of children on depression medication in Europe.
I speak with conviction about the issues surrounding mental illness as my Mother has been in and out of mental hospitals since I was a child. Like Tennessee William's tragic Blanche du Bois, I relied on " the kindness of strangers" whilst her brain was being fried and her body pumped full of drugs. Her mental illness robbed me of a Mother and left me a legacy of depression. Dorothy Rowe says "mental illness/depression is a prison where you are both the suffering prisoner and the cruel jailer". In my opinion, the most insightful words relating to mental illness.
The Duchess of Cambridge has recently been appointed as the new patron of mental health issues and has spoken out about breaking the taboo, urging those to seek help. Nonetheless, Hillary Mantel, a sufferer of depression, suggests that "once you're labelled as mentally ill and that's on your medical record, than anything you say can be discounted as an artefact of your mental illness". So, is it really that easy just to reach out and seek help? The annual NHS cost of bipolar disorder is estimated at 9.2 billion. But where is the funding actually going?
The current waiting list to see a NHS psychiatrist is one year. Going private is matter of days. A few years ago I sought professional help as the legacy of my fractured childhood hit me like an asteroid and I felt robbed of me. I was in so much pain, drowning and desperately wanted to swim to shore. When help arrived 14 months later, it turned out to be the most fruitless and frustrating experience. The psychiatrist was woefully unpractised and I lasted 2 sessions with him. Why are lives being put at risk because of the scandalised waiting list? Anti-depression pills linked to self-harm and suicidal thoughts are being handed out like Smarties. Many just want to be listened to, like the case of Joanne Norris, 28. Joanne had a history of severe anxiety and depression, she was also 35 weeks pregnant with her second child and battling panic attacks. On March 16, 2014 she phoned the mental health crisis, telling a psychiatric nurse that she was having suicidal thoughts. An appointment was made to see a specialist three weeks later. After her desperate plea fell on deaf ears, she boarded a train to Witham, sent a final text to her husband, then she walked into the path of the next train. The irony of this sad story is that her voice was only heard when it made the national news. Another victim of mental health failings.
Mental illness robes you of that which is you, distorts moods and thoughts, and erodes the desire to live in this world. The Times time to mind campaign is calling for improvements into funding, waiting times, and has called for mandatory "specialist-led training in mental health for all GPs". The Conservatives have been accused of renegading on their pledge to do more for mental health. How many cases like Joanne Norris need to commit suicide before real action is taken? Mental health tsar, Natasha Devon was axed this year after her apparent criticism of the government's commitment to mental health issues. I would like to see not just a figurehead but someone who has been through mental health issues who can navigate this problem through the murky waters of lack of funding, denial and inability to grasp the real impact of mental health issues.
In the 1974 film, Network, Peter Finch's character has a complete meltdown on national television, compounded by the fact that he's no longer relevant to the news channel and discarded like yesterday's news. One of the most famous lines in cinema history is when he declares "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" Every sufferer of mental health should cherish these words. Get as "mad as hell" and fight to have your voice heard.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)