As we approach World Suicide Prevention Day on 10th September it seems time to reflect on everybody who is affected by mental health, including the friends and families supporting their loved ones battling with their mental health illnesses.
It is a sad fact that there just isn’t enough support and care available for mental health and yet surely this is equally important as our physical health? The NHS and supporting charities such as MIND do fantastic work with the financial support and resources that they get but sadly it’s not enough and suicide rates are still too high with one death every 40 seconds. This is leading to pressures on emergency services such as when Police cells are being used as a ‘safe place’ due to a lack of NHS beds.
The next hurdle is actually getting your loved one the help they need and deserve. With rates of suicide as high as they are, prevention rather than just trying to deal with emergencies is the key. Unfortunately, with what seems like a stretched health care system, this help is harder to come by. Counselling, GP appointments, crisis hotlines, hospital beds and medications are all viable and good resources however for most are not available when required. It is either refused completely or a waiting list is too long that it can come too late.
This is proved by an incident that occurred on this week when I was alerted by a woman outside my home screaming and crying. I instantly ran outside to see if I could help and found her on the phone to the emergency services after her brother had tried to take his life. She was distraught. I have never seen anyone so scared, anxious and inconsolable. You could physically see her heart breaking as she tried to get help from the emergency services. As she became angrier, she began venting about how the family had been asking for help and support and had continually been let down. When asking for him to be helped it was never an ‘emergency’. That one word made me feel sick.
In some ways our family was lucky. Although it took far too long and lots of battling we did get help along the way and the care Grandad did receive was on the whole great. He spent time in hospital on the psychiatric ward with counselling and alternative treatments. He was regularly given medication to try and manage his illness. Although I say we are lucky, is this not what we should expect? If someone had a physical illness such as Diabetes they would receive that care no questions asked. So why when it’s a mental health condition does this seem to be a struggle to get and if received it is felt to be a big win?
As a family, in my opinion, we were let down too often in the end. Grandad was the worse I had ever seen him which was extremely hard to swallow when he had previously been doing really well. So what had changed? His prescription. For some unknown reason when he saw a GP that Doctor made a decision that would affect us all in ways he could never have imagined. Grandad had been better than he had been for a long time. His prescription had been working great so what did this GP do? Changed it. We will never understand why that was deemed appropriate. Surely if something is working for a patient, and they are not harmed by what and the amount of the drugs they are given, you would leave well enough alone. As soon as this was done we were back to square one and the illness became awful for Grandad and for us around him. It was the worst time for all involved as every day was torturous for him and we were helpless to stop it. We started pushing for help again but this time, we were faced with even more struggle to get it. He needed to be in a safe place like a hospital where he could get the right support but instead, he was at home. He was a risk to himself and my Nan, an elderly woman, trying to cope. She lived every day wondering if he would be there still as he made many threats and attempts to his life. Upon calling a crisis line she was told ‘it isn’t an emergency’ because he was only about to hurt himself but he hadn’t yet. When does it become an emergency then? Once they have actually hurt themselves and it is too late?
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Prevention by helping those in need far earlier in their illness could drastically reduce the number of families to experience what mine did. Action needs to be taken by the government to help mental health services with more doctors, counsellors and beds in wards where needed but also to teach self-help in schools etc. and really educate our next generations on how to look after themselves and each other. If we can ensure mental health stops being a taboo, then maybe we have a chance of fighting it more effectively.
In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123.
In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.
This is what happens when your phone is left unattended in a Panto changing room! #Panto #dame @mattstreuli @IHDC pic.twitter.com/e5fFigXfCz— Claire (@clairelouisef89) January 25, 2016
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