People talk about the moment their life changed forever. Maybe they signed the dotted line on their first house or enjoyed their first dance as husband and wife. My life changed forever when my family sought the help of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services when our daughter, Stephanie began to suffer from mental ill health. It was then that we found out the sheer lack of help available. The support needed was under-resourced, under-staffed and under-funded. Even at times of crisis, all we could do was wait. Not a day or a week, but anything up to 3 months just to receive an appointment. This was when our lives changed.
Only a few years earlier, my husband's younger sister (an NHS Psychiatrist) completed suicide. Now we faced a new challenge as parents. Stephanie's mental suffering continued for years, we were pushed from pillar to post. She survived multiple suicide attempts and several hospital admissions. Eventually after 10 years 'in the system' Stephanie was given the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.
It's an indescribable feeling when you see your own flesh and blood so mentally tormented that they want to die. My strength was knowing that my maternal devotion would never give up. However, no matter how much love and understanding Stephanie received at home, her depression deepened. Every appointment involved the disturbing mantra of "no services available at this time", "no beds available at this time", "no support available at this time".
Her suicide attempts included the police having to be called to restrain her and paramedics taking her to A&E. Following this near fatal suicide attempt, the A&E on-call mental health team assessed Stephanie and told her to go home. I strongly disagreed. I challenged them to admit Stephanie into hospital as I couldn't guarantee her safety at home. My intervention lead to Stephanie being admitted in a mental health unit.
What pained us most was experiencing, first hand, a shocking lack of empathy and compassion from the medical team in A&E and medical receiving wards. We saw the attitudes in the eyes of these trained doctors and nurses. It wasn't clinical detachment - but inhumane judgement. To them, Stephanie was taking up a bed that could have been used for a 'real' emergency. They didn't see my daughter's desperate need for intervention and psychiatric help.
Enough was enough.
My resolve to change the 'them and us' attitude towards self-harm & depression was set. I became a counselor and a capacity trainer in Self Harm & Suicide Intervention Skills for 'Choose Life', the Scottish Government's Suicide Prevention Strategy. But I wanted to do more, to connect with people and spread a message of hope. I've always used music to decompress and gain control of my own mood. So I started writing and performing my own music. And knowing the healing power of all music, the idea of Music On Prescription was born.
Partnered by Breathing Space (NHS 24) Scotland's mental health phone service and GP's, our aspiration for Music On Prescription is to reduce the number of global suicides, by bridging the critical time gap between people needing and receiving professional help for depression with free, online, emotional first aid, through both the power of music and additional self-help resources.
With music powered by Spotify, people joining in with Music On Prescription will be able to freely access millions of songs. By answering carefully crafted questions, they will then be able to create their own "feel good" playlists - connecting music with personal memories to boost their general sense of well-being. Additionally weekly animated videos will be sent to them, addressing their specific issues, providing support and understanding during the challenging days, weeks and months ahead.
Tragically, we lose over 800,000 people every year from suicidal deaths. But, disturbingly, 3 in 4 people who take their own lives don't contact Mental Health Services in the year before their death, which makes Music On Prescription's life saving asset - to reach anyone, anywhere, anytime - so vital to our cause.
We launched our crowd-funding campaign to make MusicOnPrescription a reality on 10th September, World Suicide Prevention Day, by hosting a world's first live music gig in our GP Practice. The event closed with an emotional minute's silence, remembering those precious lives gone too soon through suicide.
My darling Stephanie is on the path of recovery, fully supporting our initiative. Sorrowfully, too many parents can't say the same... Music On Prescription will make a difference. If that difference is one life, one family - what a difference that will be!