Thursday, 23 February 2017

Mental Health Crisis

It was upsetting to watch the Panorama documentary about the growing mental health crisis. The beginning when that poor woman entered her dead son's flat for the first time, days after his death brought tears to my eyes. The documentary concentrated on one area of the country and said the level of mental health care was abysmal.

I could have been that young man who killed himself. It might have been my mother walking around my shitty flat telling a reporter how I was a wonderful child. How sad it was that I died so young.

Nevertheless, I survived my attempt at ending it all. The doctors placed me in a psychiatric ward for several weeks, and I was lucky enough to get the help needed to rebuild my shattered life and broken mind.

As I watched the programme, I wondered why is it more and more people are suffering from mental issues. I refuse to call it mental illness or disorder, is it a mental issue, problem, a development in most cases created by circumstance.

The doctors classify me as bipolar, with a personality disorder, anxiety and dissociation. At least I was. I do not know why it is that I can sit here and type away knowing what I went through, throughout my life. The terrible things I endured, as well as the positive, to come to this point. Am I still bipolar? I know I still have anxiety issues, the slightest problem sends me a gnawing pain and terrible thoughts on outcomes so insignificant to seem unworthy of thought. I have to take a considerable amount of medication to keep me sane. I have to work hard to keep a control of things.

I am lucky I would say. Overall, I have the capacity to discuss my issues openly and without feeling ashamed of them. I do not care who knows what I went through if it has the end goal of making me feel and be a better man then great, I go full steam ahead. I imagine that most people in my situation are not like me and keep all their problems bottled up inside.  I suspect they do it for a few different reasons; they are embarrassed, they do not want to be labelled, and probably the biggest reason, they feel no one will listen to them.

I was in that situation when I had a nervous breakdown at work. I knew I had a severe mental problem, but who is going to listen.  The GP certainly did not listen; she cowered away from me as a cried my eyes out in her office, prescribing Prozac to alleviate my distress.  When Isaw her again the Prozac was not working, so she doubled the dose, and that sent me into a suicidal spiral. I remember standing on a bridge in the middle of winter, full of despair and wondering how I could continue living my life like this. The only question she asked me was, "will you harm yourself?"  At the time I was unaware of how the NHS system worked and what it would take to get the help I needed. Climbing Mount Everest would be easier than trawling through the NHS to get a psychiatrist to help fix a broken mind.

Luckily for me, I am not someone who gives up when my life is at stake, and I fought tooth and nail to get the help I needed. Most in my situation, suffering from a mental condition, I imagine would never do this. Most mental health sufferers will not force doctors to reevaluate their condition, then write letters to EMP's and MP's to make then help me get help. To force the NHS to get a counsellor, then CBT, then a psychologist, and a psychotherapist and finally after trying to attempt suicide, which at the time seemed to be the only option available, a psychiatrist. From the moment I had my breakdown to getting the help I needed took about four years. It was exactly seven years to the day until I was a fully functional human being, able to enter the world once more.

I am one of the lucky ones to have survived the toughest battle one can imagine and still be alive to tell the tale. I empathise with those who do not have the skills I possess to get out of the mire they find themselves in.  I know if I was taken seriously from the moment I had my breakdown, I could have avoided many years of severe mental imbalance. If I could have seen a mental health specialist immediately, I may not have, had to try and kill myself before seeing a psychiatrist.

I survived to tell you this; we need to do more to help others to get the help they need to survive as well. We also need to figure out why it is that more and more people are suffering from what I would describe as the western capitalist mental health crisis.

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