I Couldn't Care Less: All in the Mind
Created | Updated May 18, 2014
All in the Mind
Do you remember last week I mentioned the fact there had been an issue with mental health care in my part of the world. There were questioned raised about whether or not mental health care was fast or adequate enough, close enough to those who needed it or indeed sufficiently well-coordinated after, among other incidents, a man threw himself off a bridge after repeatedly visiting his local hospital for help on the same day. I have heard quite a few stories about mental health provision through various groups I have been involved in, and I also have some first-hand experience of what it can be like through caring for R. So what I'll try and do today is tell you what I've found in our specific case, and what the practical upshot is.
Our story starts on the 14th of March. As I write that is about 14 weeks ago. We met a chap who was going to address R's initial concerns and organise specific referrals on to the appropriate people. You may remember me writing about this meeting, it was the one where I fell asleep. Never mind. This chap turned out to have the same condition as R, albeit he happily acknowledge his symptoms weren't as severe, she was nonetheless happy to be talking to someone who had first-hand experience and so it all started well. Several plans were agreed, a letter to be written back to R's GP, a referral on to a specialist she liked and had seen before, and a request for Occupational Therapy, which had been extremely useful when in place several years ago until the lady left and was replaced by nobody. We understood that all of this would take a few weeks and it might be a bit of time before we saw any results, but we were getting moving. Slowly.
A couple of weeks ago it had been some weeks since this meeting and we'd heard nothing. Not only had we heard nothing, we had been to R's GP on another matter and they had no letter to speak of. Now this is where the consequences kick in. R, remember, has mental health issues. This is pretty much of a common denominator amongst people who access mental health services. When it seemed as if nothing was being done R simply threw in the towel. By her own admission she simply did not have the emotional energy to try any more. Being a disabled person1 means a lot of fighting, with your disability, with employers, with people supposed to be giving you support, with all sorts of people. So naturally there comes a time when you've had enough. Additionally the fatalism common to sufferers of depression and doubtless other conditions inclines people to think it's not worth the bother anyway.
So I phoned up to ask what was happening. On Thursday I was going to get a call back. On Friday, much the same. On Monday I got through first time. I managed to unravel one misunderstanding, and get to grips with what else was going on. The letter had been posted, but a second copy would be sent. Good. Except for the fact that as of Friday it still hadn't been sent. I was waiting for a phone call Friday. Still no luck, but again, Monday, I got through okay. The letter will be chased, apparently, but I will now believe it when I see it. But that is only part of the point. Some people are fortunate enough to have a carer, or someone else to offer them support. Very few people, I would imagine, have mental health problems which don't deteriorate during the weeks in which the promised support does not materialise. This is a very vulnerable and extremely at risk group of people, who need speedy treatment and need to have trust in the people looking after them. I have no doubt any mental health professional would tell you that earning that trust and confidence for any of their clients is a huge and significant challenge. In essence, delayed treatment does not just impact the problem, as it would with a physical ailment, it impacts the effectiveness of the solution. For a group of people for whom this is the case, and for who the capacity to chase their own care is often significantly diminished, the problem of inadequate support is one in serious need of resolution.
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