NHS mental health services - what the hell is going on??
Okay, so I cant be alone in thinking something is seriously up with NHS mental health services at the moment. In fact I know I’m not, as it’s an issue I’m dealing with every day at the moment.
Remember Teresa May’s embattled speech when she entered number 10? I swear she promised to help deal with this exact issue. Well, she's gone out the back way now and we are yet to see any progress. I think Brexit made her very forgetful. This isn’t about politics though. This is about us. Us as people who are struggling and don’t know where to turn. Who are finding life hard and who take the sometimes monumentally difficult step of going to the doctor and saying...
please help me, please don't leave me alone with this, I can’t do this anymore.
Us who wait, full of hope, for them to look us in the eye, lay a reassuring hand on our shoulder and say I hear you, I’ve got you, leave it with me. But they probably won’t do that. Because actually, that’s a promise that they would have to break.
This is the honest truth. Go to your GP suffering from mental health problems and this is probably what will happen. If you are lucky you will have a caring and understanding GP who is trained in mental health as much as in physical health and takes the time to really listen. If you are unlucky, you will have an awkward GP who struggles to look you in the face and who is much more comfortable dealing with colds and ear infections instead.
The first thing you will be offered is medication, but that’s something I will leave for another blog post as there is more I need to say about that.
If you are at crisis point and feeling suicidal, or if you are struggling so much that it’s having a substantial impact on relationships, housing, employment or the safety of others, you will be referred to a local mental health team or psychiatrist and the system should work as designed, with support to help you with all of the aforementioned problems and hopefully get you back on track. Some of this is great and I will never knock it. If you are literally on your knees, the NHS will try to pick you up.
However, if you are anxious or depressed, or have something such as Bipolar Disorder but are surviving and managing to lead a somewhat normal life, this is the reality of what will happen instead. You will be offered CBT with a waiting list of anything up to 10 months (at time of writing). After this, you will be given 6-12 free sessions, asked to fill in countless forms before and after each appointment so the NHS can neatly tick some boxes and prove they deserve their funding. Alternatively you will be asked to do this online, where the Counsellors take minutes to type their answers and you may be distracted by the TV in the background. For some people, CBT is useful and offers them tools to help cope in times of stress and anxiety. For most, CBT will merely scrape the surface and may feel technical and impersonal. It’s a very individual thing. Sometimes it takes a long, long time to reach the place where we are ready to ask for help. The last thing we need to then be told is that help is either unavailable, not quite what we want, or months away.
People often say to me that I’m too cheap, I don’t charge enough and that I’m underselling myself as a trained professional. But I can promise you that the day I start charging a much higher rate is the day I’ve lost my way. Because the NHS is limited in what they can give and I don’t believe that someone should be rich in order to be able to receive the help they need. I think that to be a mental health professional, you need to care passionately about the people you are helping instead of the money you are making because otherwise, you may forget why you are there in the first place and make decisions based on your own personal gain instead of what is best for the client.
Some Counsellors near to me charge up to £120 a session. If I ever do that, please email me and ask me what the hell I’m doing.
My five year old son has been admitted to hospital 12 times in his short life, always on an emergency basis. Seeing your child struggling and gasping for breath is the most terrifying thing and hand on heart, I can say that the NHS have been amazing every single time. One of my oldest friends had a brain tumour, was operated on by world class surgeons within days of its discovery and is now back to leading a full and happy life. Believe me, I’m not here to pour shame on the NHS itself. I think we are lucky to have such amazing services available to us and the actual people working for it are usually committed and caring individuals.
However, this does not excuse the fact that right now, mental health services are at a crisis point, and it’s just not good enough. Someone needs to step in. The government? Ideally yes please!
Yes the stigma around mental health is beginning to lift, and people are finally asking for the help they need. But what about if the help isn't there to be given? What then?
All I can do is say I'm here. If you need help and you need help now, call, email or text me and I will do everything I possibly can to give it to you. Don't suffer alone. If you are brave and strong enough to hold out your hand and say help me, I will take it and say yes, I will.