You might expect people who volunteer in the mental health sector (like me), use charities who help those with mental health problems (like me), and use mental health services (like me) would be jumping for joy today. I can only speak for myself, but I’m not.
I’m not jumping for joy, because since 2011, I have seen my friends get more and more ill whilst sitting on waiting lists (or in some cases, not even being able to sit on a waiting list because they’re between two funding zones and neither zone wants to take them on). I have known friends to be sent hours away from home because even after 2 days of searching for a ‘crisis bed’ that was all that was available. I have seen friends go in and out of A&E, begging for help, only to be told to ring the crisis team if things got worse. I have seen friends quite literally end up in HDUs (High Dependency Units) in hospital due to their mental ill health taking such a toll on their body.
I have seen services around me disappear in a matter of days. I know that in my area right now charities are having to take on more people than ever before. Waiting lists are impossibly long. Appointments are cancelled because even if a professional is available, they can’t get a room. I have had a professional sit across from me and tell me that they need to see me more often but can’t because they only work in my area one day a week (and have 60+ patients on their books). Here I’m not even talking about low-level services, but services needed for patients who are really poorly and just need some help.
Low-level services, such as, for example, grief support, either don’t exist or have waiting lists reaching from now into the next century.
Last week I spoke to someone who’d been doing really well in their recovery, but was now struggling to keep themself safe, never mind getting out and about as much as they’d like, because they needed their medication changing. They had seen a professional who had decided on a change, but because the right paperwork hadn’t been faxed over (days/weeks later), they still couldn’t access the medication they so vitally needed.
My GP sat across from me this morning and told me to try to keep hope, as I finally have an appointment next week for someone to review my medication. An appointment she’d requested urgently over 3 months ago, and had requested again, in person, twice since. This is a GP who has been seeing me weekly (or more than weekly in the run up to Mum’s death) and continuously goes over and above her job description, partly because at this point I know her really well, but also because other help isn’t there.
So excuse me if I’m not overly excited about the governments ‘promises’ today, but I’m tired. I’m tired of trying and trying to help myself despite my medication not being sorted. I’m tired of seeing my friends go in and out of hospital. I’m tired of hearing from friends who are so hopeless, because they’ve been passed from pillar to post and eventually dropped. I’m tired of hearing the government argue about mental healthcare in parliament, discussing it like it’s a political football they can toss around, making empty promises and attempting to inspire false hope. Mental healthcare is not something to score political points with. It is a real issue affecting real people’s lives, and until it’s funded and staffed properly, people will continue to die.