Welcome to the sharp end of austerity.

I’m angry. Really frickin’ angry. This isn’t like me at all – usually any anger I feel is self-directed and turns into loathing before I can recognise what it is. Today I’m a maelström of rage and frustration. Get me.

On the ‘About’ section of my Twitter and Facebook pages I write:

“I’m supposed to be blogging about my experiences of mental health services in the UK, but soon there won’t be any to blog about.”

I think I was trying to be funny but I’m not laughing anymore. I’m utterly sick of experiencing, listening to and reading about the mental health system’s failure to care for the vulnerable people its supposed to be helping. Why don’t we matter? I won’t break confidences by sharing other people’s stories but I can say that the words ‘ignored’, ‘discharged’ and ‘abandoned’ come up far too frequently and the distress their actions cause is far too real. Where care is provided it is so woefully inadequate that it’s insulting – a tick box exercise, care-by-numbers.

Via Rethink, I wrote to my MP about the disparity between physical and mental health provisions. The cut and paste reply I finally received makes for difficult, depressing reading. I’m trying to read it now, so that I can share it with you but I’m finding that rage is not good for a clear head – I read one sentence and then have to look away. Breathe CNS Blogger, breathe…

Thanks to the clear-minded bods at Rethink, I expressed concern that mental health issues account for 23% of the total impact of ill-health in the UK but receives just 13% of health expenditure. In his reply, my MP reassured me that the government has committed significant funds to support psychological treatments and that their efforts will double the number of people accessing talking therapies. Are politicians really so indoctrinated in their party as to not be able to think for themselves? Do they ever sign off correspondence with a sinking feeling of shame? I bet they don’t, but they should.

The sums of monies bandied about by our government during their electioneering might sound like big bucks but the mental health system has been underfunded for so long that any new injection of cash will simply paper over a few cracks, nothing more. The number of people accessing talking therapies will increase because long-term treatment (i.e. the stuff that actually makes a difference) is no longer available on the NHS, not in my neck of the woods anyway. As I wrote back in May, people referred to my local mental health trust will first be pointed in the direction of a self-help toolkit with books on prescription and then move on to guided self-help with telephone support. You might then be offered 4 to 6 weeks of group CBT and if you’re still struggling there’s a further option of 8 weeks of individual CBT. So when my MP states that “patients needing treatment for a mental health problem can now choose where they get their care” I laugh – but not a funny, jokey kind of laugh, we’re talking more woman on the verge of another nervous breakdown laugh. In my MP’s defense he’s not wrong – we can choose. The selection being offered to me and others in similar circumstances is tick box, care-by-numbers stuff on the NHS, or treatments that might actually get us out of the hell we’re living in that are only available in the private sector. Not much of a choice for the majority.

As for my story, my care coordinator has been off work for a year next Tuesday – save for one appointment she made back in November. The lack of support available to me means that getting through the daily grind of life on the edge of existence has become increasingly untenable. Meltdowns caused by attempting to deal with triggering situations are the worst they’ve been for a very long time and I’m avoiding a lot of things I need to deal with because I just can’t. It goes back to the point I made about the difference between well-being and illness. With the exception of eating properly, which goes in fits and starts, I do everything else that contributes towards mental well-being. I exercise, practice yoga and meditation, make Herculean efforts not to isolate myself and I take my medication religiously. But I have an illness and I need the support of health professionals to try and recover. Where is that support? I’ve tried working with whomever’s on duty and that turned out to be catastrophic. Encounters with the crisis team didn’t go much better. Remember: If the recovery team help you to recover, then the crisis team help you to have a…

I’m relying on friends more and more. They’re a wonderful bunch of people – I wish we could all share them – and my best friend is one of the most awesome beings ever put on this planet but they’re my friends, not my carers. There’s a line that needs to be drawn. I want to be a friend first and a person with mental health issues second. My best friend comes with me to appointments that I find too difficult to attend by myself and I’m unspeakably grateful, but it’s not her job and I don’t want her to hear some of the things she has to hear by being there – I’d tell her everything but in my own time and when I’ve processed it. She takes my meds off me when the care team fail to help out, she listens to my distress when I’m broken and there’s nobody who’s been trained to deal with that kind of shit around. Where’s the dignity? Don’t I have a right to that at least?

These days there seems to be more dignity in dying than in trying to live and in that I have a really big problem.

You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it. – Maya Angelou


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