As a nation we’re coming to the point where we’re talking the talk and saying that “mental health” should be seen and treated the same way as “physical health”, but there is much more we need to do. When you are ill, seriously ill, you go to the local accident and emergency department at your hospital. So where do you go when you have a mental health crisis, you are feeling suicidal or at serious risk of harming yourself?
It’s hard from the outset, because when I begin to feel unwell, I still look well from the outside. There’s currently a lot about not wasting GP or A&E time. I’ve seen adverts on social media, the television, radio (and even when you are on hold to you GP surgery), a message is continually played out that there are numerous alternatives now when you are ill, such as online and your local pharmacist.
If a person who feels mentally unwell goes to a pharmacist, would they really be able to help that person when they say they are confused and feel suicidal? I’m not sure what they would do other than ring the hospital or an ambulance and then you are back being looked down on until you are sent home, once again with no action except to see your nurse or psychiatrist in the next six months. I once made an appointment to see my GP and she telephoned to cancel it because she would only advise my to wait for my next psychiatrist visit.
So where do you go?
If you get a sty in your eye, you might visit your pharmacist. If you are hit by a car, you are taken to A&E. If you have a suspected infection you would probably phone up your local surgery and see your GP. With all of these, there will be a procedure, certain things that will be checked and then you will receive suitable treatment, whether it’s medication, surgery or something more long-term. There’s an answer.
But where do you go when your brain isn’t working? This is a gap we have within our system. You can be seen by your GP in the first instance, but what about when the symptoms are beyond that? What about when you are feeling confused, you have become extremely paranoid, when you have harmed yourself or at serious risk of doing so, when you are physically exhausted and just want everything to stop, when you feel suicidal and know that you will simply be judged or rejected if you call your local A&E? And yet, what if it’s moved beyond that and you are seeing and hearing things, experiencing psychosis? You’re sectioned. Until that happens there is nothing.
You cannot seek respite without being a celebrity or multi-millionaire in a private rehabilitation clinic. Your searching for help and support will be found with lots of hard work, many rejections and eventually seeing one person every six months when you feel actually okay and maybe are sent away, immediately feeling at the end of the line, knowing you have another six months to wait.
All these things should figure on the same charts as minor ailments, through to serious life at risk. There should be a coloration with physical health illnesses.
When I hit a crisis point of confusion, there is nowhere to go. I look at my list of options:
Await my psychiatrist appointment (my next one is November)
Await therapy, January 2020
What are the options? Because until you’ve gone too far, there’s nowhere to go. I don’t have the answer, because I too am struggling with many of these symptoms, but I do believe that we should be taking more time to look into this within our healthcare system so there is a procedure to follow and a place to go when someone is in crisis.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- 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.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org