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Mental Health Crisis- Break it Before it Breaks Us

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Copyright BBC Panorama

Last night, the BBC broadcast a Panorama episode entitled ‘Kids In Crisis’, a documentary following the mental health crisis affecting young people. It’s no secret that the rates in mental illness, self-harm and suicide in young people is increasing. With the rise in social media, exam pressure and tougher academic environments, it’s hardly surprising. However this increase could not have come at a worse time, with cuts to mental health resources and the NHS being made left, right and centre. What’s even more infuriating is that money that has managed to be allocated to these services is often ‘re-allocated’ to ‘higher priorities.’

It’s been estimated because of these cuts and re-allocation of funds, up to a quarter of children and young people with mental illnesses are not receiving the care that they need. The documentary highlighted that waiting for just a consultation with a CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) professional can take anything from a few weeks to a year and even then, four out of ten cases are deemed ‘not serious enough’ for treatment. During the programme, families with children who were suffering with mental illnesses were interviewed and the incidents I saw coupled with the lack of treatment and interest from mental health services, quite frankly, made my blood boil and preventing myself from yelling at the TV was almost impossible.

I would apologise for the rant that is about to ensue, but believe me it is justified.

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BBC Panorama

One particular child, suffered with self-harm, suicidal thoughts and isolating tendencies. After going to the Doctor, it was claimed that it was just teenage hormones- a phase. Ok, most if not all young people suffer at the hands of hormones and yes they can cause all sorts of confusion and conflicting emotions, but being moody and making plans to end your own life are two VERY different things.  After dismissal from the Doctor, the child’s health worsened and psychotic episodes, hallucinations, suicide attempts were regular occurences. Surely she is ‘sick enough’ to receive treatment now, eh CAMHS?’ Apparently not, after finally securing a consultation, the child’s case was rejected. At this point in the programme, I had no idea what was classed as ‘serious enough’ to get these people to listen. Not only that. the way in which the family was spoken to after this consultation was simply disgusting. Now we might only be hearing one side of the story here, and I appreciate that medical professionals in this country are under a lot of pressure, but any kind of insinuation that a child or anyone is ‘seeking attention’ or ‘proving a point’ by saying they feel suicidal or suffering from a mental health issue, is precisely why people (including myself for a long time) keep mental health a secret and should not have a job anywhere near a mental health facility.

It took two attempts at my GP to get an actual diagnosis and previous to this I was given a similar explanation that the way I was feeling was probably hormones, when I was about 17/18 and in school, despite me saying that I’d been suffering the same symptoms for over a year and it was getting worse. Now I’m not a doctor and the reasons for this cautious and excusing behaviour for diagnosing mental health issues, I don’t 100% know. Perhaps there is a perfectly understandable reason and as long as that is medically based and not financial I will be happy to hear the argument. I do also understand that anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and anti-psychotics can be very effective yet are very serious drugs that cause different effects on the body and sometimes make the problem worse, therefore medical professionals maybe reluctant when prescribing them to young people- which is understandable. Or at least it would be understandable if other therapies were as just as accessible and quick to attain as a prescription.

Unless you can afford to go private, counselling and other talking therapies all come with a waiting list. As a seventeen year old, who was self-harming and struggling with harmful thoughts, I was told it was a phase and I could self-refer for counselling but the waiting list was already very long. I never heard anything back from that waiting list. I went back to the Doctor at nineteen, now suffering with severe panic attacks and low mood. I was then finally given a diagnosis, medication for the panic attacks and the doctor referred me onto a six month waiting list for counselling. I have no idea what happened to the first waiting list. In July that year, I was given six-weeks of counselling. In December of the same year I was also diagnosed with depression. Six-weeks of counselling to deal with a problem that had further-developed since my appointment six months previously, which was added to the three years I’d already been suffering with it. In a nutshell it clearly wasn’t enough.

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I would be more sympathetic with the argument of being cautious with drugs if talking therapies were more accessible and a long-term option, but they’re not. Six-weeks of counselling was not enough for me and I am by no means the worst case scenario with mental health, so how are people with more severe mental health issues supposed to cope, if they’re not better at the end of six weeks or if they can’t wait the six months on the waiting list?! If deemed ‘not sick enough’ children are left to get worse in order to receive help. At one point the presenter pointed out that a child’s self-harming tendencies had to be incredibly severe in order for her to finally be offered the treatment she needed.  If you turned up to your GP with a heart problem, you’d be sent to A & E for at least a consultation if not treatment, as heart conditions can be fatal. However if you say you’re thinking about taking your own life, you’re put on an indefinite waiting list, which isn’t a guarantee you’ll receive the help you need anyway. You’re telling me suicide isn’t fatal then?

What people, and by people I mean these aristocratic dinosaurs we call a government, need to get into their heads is that mental illnesses can be terminal if left untreated. If people in crisis are told ‘they’re not sick enough’, are left waiting for weeks or months without treatment, or are accused of making their mental illness an ‘attention-seeking exercise’ to fob them off because there isn’t enough resources, that person’s mental stability can become a ticking time-bomb. What choice do you leave them?

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What the ‘right’, ‘honourable’ Theresa May needs to learn is if you say to the public that there is ‘no magic money tree’ for resources like NHS, CAHMS, and other health facilities, yet there is money for air strikes on ISIS, a multi-million pound refurbishment of Buckingham Palace and paying off her chums at the DUP, then the British public ARE going to feel failed, they ARE going to lose confidence in you and there is literally nothing right, nor honourable about you, the people you work with or the work that you do. If you want a productive workforce, an ambitious next generation, and a healthier, happier population- you need to look after them!

It’s not just my generation that has been let down. The elderly are left to sit in a chair, in over-priced care homes, their brains growing cold from lack of stimuli which allows depression to step in. My parents’ generation are overworked and underpaid and if you’re self-employed and suffer from a mental health problem, forget sick leave or the option to be signed off from stress or depression- it isn’t an option. Can’t afford private care, psychiatry, rehab or counselling? Tough luck, here’s a waiting list for eighteen months, regardless of how self-destructive your mental state is or will become. The next generation are now suffering, with teen suicide and self-harm rates sky-rocketing.

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Mental illness is something everyone and anyone can face, but not everyone and anyone can get treatment for it. The mental health crisis is hitting all generations and is affecting more people than ever before. It’s time something was done to break this crisis before it breaks us.

Watch My Story with Depression:

Useful links

MIND– Mental Health Charity

Samaritans- Suicide Prevention

The Blurt Foundation– Articles on Mental Health and resources for self-care

Papyrus– Young Suicide Prevention


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