I want to start by saying that although this experience is completely personal to me, I have heard many similar stories which show the desperate need for change in our mental health services.
At the age of 15, I saw a counselor for the first time with the local CAMHS (Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service.) Over the next 3 years, I saw about 5 different counselors, they would come and go very quickly. I never built a relationship with any of them. I never felt like I was being listened to. This made it difficult to motivate myself to keep attending appointments.
I was referred by CAMHS to a specialist Eating Disorder service. This would require me to take time out of school, travel for an hour to get there and pay for that travel. I was completely unable to commit to this. My parents could not pay for this and I could not afford to miss school. So I never got proper treatment for my ED.
One of the counselors I saw informed me that I was an “attention seeker.” She said that a lot of teenagers cut themselves for attention. I believed her. I stopped talking to people about my issues because I did not want people to think I was just doing it for attention.
Upon coming to university, I had no desire to get any help. It seemed pointless to try when everyone I had seen was awful and did not seem to care. I relied on medication for a while.
In the midst of a mental health crisis, I was taken to see someone to be assessed for sectioning. I wanted to kill myself. This professional kept playing around on her phone during the meeting. She asked me if I could stay safe. Of course, I said yes with every intention of going to die.
My GP suggested talking therapies. The referral took a long time. I finally heard from them and had an over the phone assessment to see what would work best for me. After months of waiting, I was told my case was “too complex” so I would need to go to the complex needs service.
More waiting. About 5 months before I got an assessment. Another 3 and I started group therapy. Since finishing group therapy, I have been waiting 6 months for another assessment to see where I go next in treatment. And then who knows how long until I actually start the next level of therapy?!
The real danger in the huge waiting times and lack of services is that mentally ill people will disengage. They will get fed up with being messed around. They will think trying to get help is useless. They will get more unwell. It gets to a stage where trying to get better just loses appeal, all the motivation for it disappears in the midst of a waiting time.
Something needs to change. There needs to be more services other than talking therapies. The waiting times need to be addressed. Cutting funding to mental health services continuously is going to result in a lot of suicides and in the long run, is going to cost more money as people will be more likely to require hospital admission.
Working in the mental health sector, I have seen first hand the effects that funding cuts are having on service users and staff. It is horrendous. People are being given medication and left with no other support. It has been proven time and time again that medication has to be combined with something for a mentally unwell person to really have a good quality of life.
There is not enough help out there. People are suffering and dying because of it. If that doesn’t make you angry, I don’t know what will.