You might think this sounds overdramatic. If it was that severe and prevalent an issue, surely the funding would exist? Surely, we would hear more about it? If you haven’t been in the system or fought for someone else to get treatment, you would be forgiven for thinking that. But you would also be wrong. This is the reality. 19 people in Scotland alone are let down by mental health services EVERY DAY. 19 lives that are put at risk EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Mental health is debilitating and terrifying and it can be life-threatening. On top of this, the UK rate for male suicide is alarming; every 2 hours a man in the UK takes their own life. That’s 84 men a week yet nothing is changing. The fact that the support does not exist for such a serious and increasing illness is concerning.
Everyone will tell you the hardest part of suffering with a mental illness is reaching out and admitting you need help but looking back, that was the easiest stage. That was the part that brought me relief. It made me feel like I was cared about, I was valued and I was important. 418 days since I did so and I’m angry, distressed and lost somewhere in the web of the wonderful system. Sometimes speaking out isn’t the issue. Help isn’t available for the people who do. I love to see people talking about it on social media, I love even more to see people talking about it with their friends and family but that doesn’t take away from the 18-month waiting list just to be assessed. Do you know what can happen to somebody in 18 months? Getting support is quite literally life or death. Now do you understand why we’re quite literally shouting about it? I know a lot of people roll their eyes at the seemingly excessive posts but if we don’t start fighting louder for it, more and more children, young people and adults are going to lose their voice, and life.
What’s more shocking is what we’re told to do in the meantime. Whilst we wait for, often life-saving treatment, we’re given the numbers of organisations such as the Samaritans and Mind, told to make a cup of tea, have a bath, light some candles and get some exercise. Or, to go private. Just to be assessed it would cost me fifty pounds, and that’s somewhere cheap. Private therapy is a wonderful thing but is not an option for so many people. So instead of suggesting I drown my sorrows in a bubble bath whilst eating avocado toast, why not help to create parity within the mental health system?
Now the statistics are out the way, for the past month or so I have been researching the reality of these figures and was horrified at what I have learned. My own experience hasn’t been great recently either as on the 24th of March 2017, I was put on a 6-18 month waiting list but instructed that if things became more severe I should go back and let them know. After spiralling in November, I went back and fully explained the situation that I felt I couldn’t keep myself safe and was met with the response that I wasn’t as bad as other people. “I have seen much worse so go home and run a bath to relax” …. yep. That works. A few weeks later as things continued to get worse I phoned NHS 111 to find out what they thought would be the best course of action as I was lost and had no idea where to turn. They recommended I go to A&E for assessment and check-in but, when I arrived, despite telling them I was actively suicidal, they didn’t want to know. I had no physical injuries and therefore I should go home rather than being a time-waster. Why do we have to wait until it might be too late to get the help that is vital. Overall, I am just as stuck as I was a year and 2 months ago. Despite being actively suicidal, having been in hospital and unable to function – I am left with no support, because the system deemed me as “not sick enough”. My experience is minimal compared to so many others though and that is terrifying. Some people both within our organisation and out with were kind enough to share their experiences and I encourage you to take the time to read them. Some may be triggering, some are hard to hear but if we do not start talking about the lack of support and fighting for the change we are going to continue to lose a generation to the battle of mental health! I partly apologise for the length but I didn’t want to cut anyone out as everyone deserves their chance to be heard.
teenagers with experience: our storiesFor our members, we put forward 3 simple questions and asked them to share their viewpoints.
- Was your experience of the mental health services overall positive or negative? How?
- Do you feel let down or do you feel supported?
- What would you have wanted, or needed, to be done differently?
QUESTION ONE: WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE?
- My experience of CAMHS was extremely negative. I waited for over a year to be seen by someone and when I did, they didn’t focus on why I was there, focusing more on my appearance and weight despite my weight being fine. Therefore, I never accessed the necessary help.
- CAMHS gave a really varied experience with some days being more helpful than others. They weren’t really interested in you, they just wanted to get on to the next person quickly.
- I was in school counselling but had to leave and tried to contact CAMHS. Their waiting list was four months and I haven’t been able to find a therapist due to their extortionate cost. (Member from CAMHS Australia)
- It started off okay as I was lucky enough to be seen after a month due to being suicidal. We did an introduction session but it went downhill from there; I waited nine months for my next appointment and decided to try to fix myself.
- Overall it was negative although my parents and peer’s reaction didn’t make the situation easier.
- It’s been pretty negative so far, I’ve had to wait a long time. Despite being told I’d hear back in 9 weeks, it’s been 5 months.
- It was positive as I got diagnosed but negative because after my diagnosis they sent me a letter stating they had chosen not to continue treatment, despite the fact I needed help.
- I attended a session for social anxiety and received a task to put up my hand in class before my next session. It was close to exams so I didn’t have the opportunity but the therapist did not understand this, called in my Mum and said because I was so unwilling to help myself I wasn’t to come back.
QUESTION TWO: LET DOWN OR SUPPORTED?
- I feel very let down. Simple.
- Most of the time they could be supportive, however on the bad days they didn’t help my friend and left us, as untrained children, to assist.
- I feel let down, 100%. I was having these suicidal thoughts and was brave enough to get help yet it took me nine months to even get an appointment for them.
- I do use some of the techniques they taught me so I suppose supported.
- I feel pretty let down, I can hardly even get in touch with them as they don’t pick up phone calls so I don’t feel supported. What if there was a crisis?
- I don’t feel supported, they gave me the number for the Samaritans and that was it.
- 100% let down.
QUESTION THREE: WANTED OR NEEDED ANYTHING DIFFERENT?
- If something could have been done differently I think I would have liked them to actually listen to me and what I needed help with. I would be able to deal a lot better.
- They could focus on each person’s individual needs.
- Shorter waiting times (UK) and less cost (Australia)
- I might as well not have gone because I was lucky enough to be able to help myself and when I finally saw them I was anxious I was wasting their time.
- Keep in contact whilst on the long waiting list, some form of support.
- To be listened to, not judged or assumed.
- At least have put me on a waiting list or given me another appointment to discuss the issue further, even if it was just one to give me tips on coping rather than tossing me aside. I didn’t even get the cliché leaflets about medication.
- Don’t cancel on people who are clearly trying to get better for one mistake. They don’t listen to you and just want everything done their exact way.
- Adjust to individual needs.
- Shorter waiting times. I felt unsafe, like anything could have happened.
Outside of Teenagers with experienceI reached out to the general public to get a wider view of people’s experiences and the responses were phenomenal. Please take the time to read the following stories in depth, the more you know the more you can help.
Jasmine, England : So I was referred to St. Ann’s Hospital in 2014 and was diagnosed with an Eating Disorder. Throughout my referral, I attended day care for about 5/6 months. However, I was still a 'child' I was as in the adult day care so they discharged me from that, against my families and I’s wishes, sending me to the child day care once a week. I was only there for 3 months and after that they discharged me with the same excuse saying “it wasn't helping.” Throughout my time there I felt they just wanted to get rid of me, I did therapy sessions, weighed in and everything else they asked for yet it never seemed to be enough. When I was struggling a lot, my Dad asked them in a meeting would I be able to go inpatient as we thought it best however they said no because I wasn't as underweight as everyone else in the hospital and I'll be triggered by the other girls. This made it into a competition as I thought I had to get “sicker” to get better. In the end, I was discharged December just gone and I went to another hospital for help with my BPD, depression and self-harm. I attended one appointment there and I got a letter a month later to say they're discharging me for no reason at all. Mental Health services have been awful. They haven't really helped me and shockingly, I got more support from my teachers at my school. They were amazing with me unlike the mental health teams, who were the trained professionals, who simply didn't help.
Anonymous, UK: I have been in and out of mental health services from the age of 14, having been diagnosed first with anorexia nervosa, followed by depression and anxiety. Whilst being treated for anorexia, as soon as I was weight restored, I was discharged from CAMHS, regardless of the fact that I still suffered from disordered thoughts surrounding food and my body weight, after all weight is only a physical symptom of a mental problem. I was referred to a specialist mental health unit almost six months ago for treatment for severe depression and self-harm, and I am still waiting to hear from them. I have called numerous times to find out what stage my referral is at but each time I have been put through to a different receptionist with no knowledge whatsoever of my assessment or referral, and been told that they will ‘be in touch when [they] have found out what is going on.’ Meanwhile, I am here, depressed and self-harming more than ever, with no support whatsoever.
Stephanie, UK: I was about 9 or 10 and I'd already been diagnosed with Asperger’s. My Mum took me to the doctors as I was self-harming with my depression. My doctor referred me to CAMHS, I saw them once and they basically said to “come back when it more serious.” I didn't see them again until I was about 11 and things were really out of control. I believe this was because CAMHS had left it so long, leading to a decline in my mental health and to my suicide attempts resulting in hospitalisation. This could have all been prevented if I'd been helped sooner. Early intervention counts.
Sophie, England: I had been on an 18-month waiting list for therapy and when I eventually received it, I had 16 sessions, but received no 'therapy' throughout. As I had waited that long to see a psychologist, a lot of things had happened so there was a lot of things to talk about, which was why we didn't get onto actual therapy. I was also told by my psychiatrist that I would see her in 12 weeks, to which I waited 6 months for that appointment. I've been told that I've had appointments but to call up two weeks before to make that appointment, when I've then been told to wait a further couple of months! I've been in and out of hospital (not inpatient), for self-harm related behaviours and some nurses were lovely and really helped me which I am thankful for, but then waited 48 hours to be seen by the crisis team, waiting in a busy A&E department by myself and already in a crisis. I do feel like I need more help with my treatment but NHS cuts prevent that!
Hayley, Scotland: My teacher convinced me to see my doctor about my mental health, a massive step for me. The first doctor I saw wasn't great. I saw her initially and she told me to stop crying as well as suggesting I should tell my parents. I made it clear my parents couldn’t be involved because their reactions were difficult to deal with so she told me to come back. When I went back she, again, told me to tell my parents and I ended up giving in. Afterwards, she invited my Dad in and only then, the third appointment, did she send away a CAMHS referral. I decided to change my doctor to one that would actually respect my wishes. My next doctor was great, she gave me a list of books and websites and apps she thought could help and she upped my anxiety medication. Meanwhile my mental health was continuing to worsen and teachers were becoming concerned. A second referral was sent away by my school stating that I was suicidal and having panic attacks every week. A few months later my school received a letter from CAMHS stating that I did not meet the criteria to be a priority and, unfortunately, they could not see me at that time. So right off the bat I told her I was struggling to get out of bed, I didn't enjoy anything anymore, some days I wasn't eating or showering because I was too unhappy and lacked the energy and that I was frequently suicidal. Her response was that “Everyone wants to die sometimes”. To make a long story short some other cool things she did are: Have a meeting with my school and parents despite me begging her not to because I couldn't face how much worse their reactions would make me feel (they'd been involved before and it had gone badly). Told me I wasn't depressed because depressed people "can't get out of bed". Frequently told me how she didn't like labels or diagnosing people and that they liked to stay away from medication. Sent a letter to my doctor asking that I be taken off my antidepressants because of this despite the fact that my mood was so low that I couldn't attempt any of the tasks she was giving me. Then to top it all off she discharged me after I told her I was still frequently suicidal without referring me to any other service with the advice that I "try harder with self-help. Be stronger and more resilient. You're smart enough to do that kind of thing on your own."
Abby, Scotland: After being diagnosed with PTSD & Depression from Manchester, I went to my GP where I was on the waiting list for a matter of MONTHS in order to speak to someone. Eventually they got back to me SIX months later, giving me a date, time & place but when I got there the building was shut. It turns out they gave me an invalid time and I’ve been ignored since with their solution being to place me on yet another waiting list.
Laura, UK: Well I have been in and out of the NHS for depression and anxiety. Roughly 2 years ago I was sent to hospital after a failed suicide attempt and after I was discharged I went to my local CAMHS. They were the most useless, arrogant and stupid people I have ever met so I stopped going. About a year later I returned for my self-harming and suicidal thoughts. I got a different CAMHS worker from the last time although she was even worse. She told me that there was nothing wrong with me and that I’m not “depressed” enough to go on medication, even if it had been recommended by my consultant. She made me cry so much with these horrible things she was saying and would sit SMILING, watching me cry. She constantly emphasised that there’s probably nothing wrong with me.
Alana, Scotland: I went to my GP two years ago because I had a really rough few years with abuse from my Dad and as I got older it started to affect me. So, I did as we’re always told and turned to them for help. I received a referral to an appointment at a local clinic where the mental health nurse never bothered to turn up and no one would help me in the clinic so I sat for two hours waiting. I went home and took an overdose receiving no help from the hospital. I got private care for a few months with help from my mum giving me some extra cash to cover it. I ended up skint and couldn’t continue even though I felt so much better talking to someone. My Mum ended up with cancer so we had a few hard years and I went back in July 2017, for help as I was struggling again. My GP was great, put me on beta blockers and antidepressants and referred me. On the day of my appointment I was asked a few questions. Maybe 10 max? From just that, she decided I wasn’t suitable or sick enough for help. So, I went to Citizens Advice and they helped me complain. I’m a tough cookie so I’ve been trying to just block it out recently and move on but I really could have done, or still do need help to get better.
Anonymous, UK: I had been suffering with an eating disorder, anxiety and depression all at the same time. I was on the waiting for nearly 5 months and the only I got seen to within 2 of them months is because I tried to kill myself because I had no one to talk to, I was at CAMHS (child adolescent mental health service) I was seeing 5 people within the service and they all told me the same things, saying it would get better over time etc. I only had one mental health doctor out of the 5 who were extremely helpful, I was given CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) which I did not need. Also on several occasions from 2015-2017 I tried to kill myself over 10 times from cutting myself to taking too many antidepressants, when I arrived at A&E I was in for 2-4 hours max then discharge. Me and family felt like being in a mental hospital for a while would’ve been a good option to help me because I tried to get my hands on anything sharp thing or any sort of medication or alcohol I could get but the NHS told me that I had to be a real threat to myself to be but in a mental hospital. Which I personally believe is ridiculous because if someone is at that stage where they had been trying to kill themselves several times over 3 years surely, they need the correct medical attention and not just an appointment at CAMHS every two weeks. Also not to forget I weighed 4 and half stone when I was 16 years old and I got referred to a dietitian because they felt like that would of helped me but what I needed was someone who could help me recognise I wasn’t fat and that I was in fact severely underweight and I needed that confidence boost to help me recognise that but then again being extremely underweight and wanting to kill yourself nearly every day & also trying to kill yourself frequently wasn’t enough to be admitted to a mental hospital also I was told by a doctor that I was going through a phase at the time. Nearly 3 years later and I’m still feeling pretty much the same.
Ceilidh, UK: The epitome of being failed by the NHS was probably when I had a complete mental breakdown a few years ago now when I was still in secondary school. CAMHS was moving slowly after being re-admitted and discharged from hospital 2015 – in 2016 I ran away and took an overdose. I was on the national news, the school and police knowing my history evacuated my school in search for my dead body. When eventually I was found, I needed to be treated for an overdose. At the time I was compliant, therefore not on need for section (not until later down the line anyways). I was locked in a small room in general hospital. I should have been assessed by a member of CAMHS like every other young person having a MH crisis but this never happened. I was discharged after being seemed medically stable, with no psych assessment and expected to travel 4 hours back home at 1am in the morning as a minor. There was a series of larger and larger overdoses and CAMHS continued to do, nothing. I was illegally expelled from school not long after, and rapidly deteriorated. The decision was made I needed intensive treatment at the best psychiatric hospital in Europe for my particular disorder. My old care co in the community lied about sending in the referral for three months, leaving me in the limbo. They refused to section me despite my risk because “she is likely to die in hospital anyways so we best make her comfortable at home.” My mental health deteriorated to a point I was so incredibly suicidal and there was “nothing more we can do for you.” I unfortunately tried to hang myself with my wrists slit requiring resuscitation. I was refused further help from the NHS still. I was also a SEED patient as a child. My BMI fell and fell, I refused to eat. Once again, the NHS refused to treat me. “We know she’s a child but there’s nothing we can do for her, she’s too far gone.” It made me feel as if they’d go to the ends of the earth for everyone else but me - later on it was described by the NHS itself as “falling through the cracks.” It wasn’t until my BMI was 11, refusing to eat all together, my organs failing and having profound physical side effects, being totally consumed by this eating disorder that a CHARITY funded a long term stay at a hospital. Not the NHS. Because the NHS was adamant I wasn’t going to make it (although I’m not entirely sure I was going to make it). It wasn’t until I was actually a healthy weight I had a CAMHS assessment after a long time with anorexia nervosa for bulimia. “You look healthy now,” in my report - and discharged me. A year later I was readmitted to A&E by ambulance. The worst part is things escalated more for me, but I was well looked after by the NHS at this point. I have worked with some incredible people. But on one occasion I was under a section. There was no other CAMHS beds in the country so I was placed in an adult unit not able to talk to any of the adults as a minor. I was kept in a separate room from everyone else. It felt isolating. The other issue arrived when I transferred from the children services from the adult services as I was with this incredible support. The support dissipated. In six months, I’ve heard from my team around four times despite instigating conversation. I’ve been given the wrong medication, withheld from my medication from GPs who “aren’t sure I need antidepressants” from the way I look and in a long series of crisis’, suicidal ideation still not looking up. NHS staff members have told me “if you wanted to kill yourself you would have done so already,” “borderline personality disorder? You’ll either end up dead or locked up,” “everyone has borderline personality disorder really,” “I don’t believe in mental illness; mental illnesses are not real” “pull in your baggy clothes tighter, I want to see how skinny you really are,” “please, please, please show me yourself harm I bet I’ve seen way worse,” and “you can’t be mentally ill because you’re not deaf.” All in all, I’ve had a lot of experiences with the NHS, a lot of good and bad. These are the bad ones in such a condensed version, the worst part is not even everything.
Anonymous: My first few years with CAMHS were seemingly okay. I was constantly passed from worker to worker as people always left which was very unsettling. Whilst inpatient there was some very inappropriate behaviour on the staff’s behalf. At the end of my CAMHS days I was really let down when I told my nurse how unsafe I was and he sent me down stairs to the cafe in my health centre at which point I snuck away and did something very dangerous and silly in an attempt to end my life. CAMHS sent me to an adult ward which was understandable since I was 18 but when I was discharged I was refused my mandatory psychiatric review and was discharged, I later found out that they hadn’t wrote an incident report or anything like they should have!! I was discharged to 0 support as adults’ team wasn’t informed I was discharged from CAMHS, I went from at least 5 appointments a week to 0! Adults team haven’t been very good for me either, they rarely see me even when things are very rubbish! I was in A&E last week and they didn’t see me while I was in A&E and I haven’t seen anyone still and it’s been almost a week? Not due to see anyone till next week and they’re aware of what happened and the severity of it. I would like people to see how the services can be and I hope it prevents something happening to another at the hands of the MH services.
Becca, UK: I have been dealing with mental health (anxiety and depression and ocd) as long as I can remember. It all came to a head when I started secondary school. My first year of high school I got bullied a lot. As a result I started to go down the dark path of self-harm, picking of the skin and punching/hurting myself. I got really bad suicidal thoughts, writing suicide notes and planning to end my life countless time. My friends noticed I wasn't myself and went to my Guidance teacher. Guidance quickly came and I told them what was happening showed them my arms etc. They told me that CAMHS would be the best option for me so after my Guidance phoned my mum and explained what was happening. But did I get the help I needed? No, I didn't. The school didn't contact CAMHS and I was left still left getting bullied and still self-harming. My family were really worried and tried their hardest to help me. 6 years in school came and it was coming up to the Christmas holidays and things were getting too much and I took a severe mental breakdown in school. I got told not to go into any classes in case I hurt myself. "Thankfully" this time they put me on the waiting list for CAMHS and I thought this was my path to recovery. Again, I was wrong. I waited 6 months to get my first session with the CAMHS team. First session went well although all we did was talk but as the week continued it went downhill. The woman firstly thought it was all to do with my period. She diagnosed me with ABSOLUTELY everything from an eating disorder to bipolar disorder, which I soon found out I had neither. She made my anxiety worse and I would end up with sleepless nights the night before the session. She told me to take a food log and I ended up not eating at all because I thought I was eating too much. It also came across that It was more like a friendship than anything else, we wouldn't talk about my problems and what was happening. She didn't carry out the paperwork that needed done. The last session came and she asked if CAMHS helped. I told her upfront that it didn't and I would need to go to another therapy through the NHS. Surprisingly, she agreed but she didn't give me anything or didn't say she would contact them so I was left to my own devices. I ended up contacting my local GP as I still wasn't in a good place. They gave me a number to contact my local clinic that deals with mental health. I phoned the number passed the "test" to make sure I actually needed the help I wanted, which is shocking in my eyes. After 6 months of waiting I finally got my first session. It was shambles from the start. She told me not to use the words suicidal because 'I might not do it and I should not be so selfish ' and I had to be careful using "umbrella terms" because I didn't know what I was talking about". I didn’t know my own feelings? She diagnosed me with anxiety, depression and said I should get tested for borderline personality disorder. I didn't know what to do and again was left to my own devices. I was scared as I didn't know what BPD was. I felt like I was going crazy. As the weeks continued I told her that I was self-harming again and that I felt suicidal. She disagreed and said if I mentioned it again she would contact people who will put me in hospital. She effectively threatened me. I ended up not telling her any of my problems as I was too scared and told her I was fine. She believed me and sent me on my way. I am now on anti-depressants and I have found my own coping mechanisms for when I feel low. The NHS didn't help me one bit and I was left on my own. They didn't understand my point of view and I felt like they just wanted me out quick so they could go on to the next person. Thankfully though my family and boyfriend have been there for me and they have helped me gain the help I need. To anyone dealing with mental health issues and want to go through the NHS I advise not to and try something new or go down another path.
Rosie, England: The biggest problem is obviously the lack of funding. Staff are stressed and unmotivated because they are being overwhelmed by caseloads. Many of the staff that I have engaged with have been very kind, and have been brilliant at their jobs. I don't want to criticise the thousands of professionals working within the NHS who go above and beyond their job. My experience with CAMHS was that they waited until things were quite serious before offering intervention. I was offered 3 follow up appointments per A and E admission (but usually only had one and was then discharged from the crisis service after an inadequate assessment) and took literally years to get a Tier 3 CAMHS worker. Another problem is that the NHS is so stretched that patients are being sent to private hospitals funded by the NHS. These private hospitals are more than happy to take money from the NHS, and they pretty much want patients to stay there for as long as they can to keep getting the money, but not too long that their service gets criticised for not showing recovery rates. I currently know people who are being kept in private units where the private psychiatrist won't discharge them when they would be much safer at home. There's a lack of specialist services. I was discharged from IP for therapy, two years later and I haven't even made it to the waiting list for DBT. There's also a complete lack of support (at least in my area) for complex dual-diagnosis. My CMHT have refused for 2 years to have me assessed for ASD even though CAMHS had pretty much given me a working diagnosis, because it would mean that I would basically qualify for less help. And don't even get me started on Crisis Teams in A and E. They are told BEFORE they even see you by their superiors that their job is to talk to you and then discharge you, and if you don't want to talk to just discharge. I was screaming at this woman that I was suicidal and I was going to die and I was scared, and she wrote down that I was 'psychologically stable' and sent me on my way (ended up being sectioned 2 days later for a suicide attempt). They literally don't have the resources to admit people so they call your bluff on suicide and hope you don't do anything. And even all the care in the community is focussed on discharge even if you have a problem that requires long term help. Everything is crisis focussed and if you're not currently in danger they'll drop you.
C, UK: I’ve had issues with my mental health since around the age of 12. I felt down/sad/worthless on a daily basis. I ended up missing school due to my low self-esteem and changes in my family life made this more difficult to get past. I went to my doctors and told them this was how I felt and was advised that this was “just my age” and “that’s what happens when you go through puberty” bearing in mind I hit puberty 2 years prior. I left it and struggled on, gradually getting worse as family life got harder. I became a teenager and spent most if not all of my time locked in my room, crying and trying to make sense of why these things were happening to me. Again, I went to my doctors and broke down to be told yet again it’s just my age/puberty. By age fifteen nothing was better- I had missed most of my school years because I physically couldn’t find the strength to leave my bed. I would binge eat as I felt my only comfort was food which turned into a vicious cycle as I gained a lot of weight. I had no confidence or drive to do anything. I didn’t have anyone to go to for help or advice so I kept everything bottled up in fear I would be judged or be told again- it’s just my age. This didn’t help and came out in bursts of anger and violence- especially to those closest to me. At age 16 I turned to self-harm. I was the lowest I have ever been and the only way I could get some sort of relief from my thoughts and hatred towards myself was to harm myself. I again went to the doctors asking for help- telling them how I was (or wasn’t) coping. I told them exactly how I was feeling- I would try anything to stop feeling this way, however because I had gone through a breakup close to my appointment, I was advised that this must be the reason I’m feeling this way and left empty handed. I was eventually admitted to CAMHs for counselling sessions after months of begging/ pleading and a worried letter from my guidance teacher. I have always been very mature for my age so I felt like in every counselling session I was being spoken to like a child- I didn’t take anything away from these sessions as they were very repetitive and as soon as I turned 18 I was no longer a patient with CAMHs. In the past year or two my mental health has become increasingly worse- I wasn’t just experiencing dark/suicidal thoughts but I was also taking panic attacks at every turn around to the point where I was crying leaving the house for work and I wouldn’t dare go anywhere on my own. Again, I went to the doctors who eventually prescribed me propranolol for my panic attacks and a free gym membership for 6 weeks in an attempt to treat my depression (bearing in mind I had already told my doctor I had a gym membership). I was told to come back in 2 weeks, which I did. I told my doctor there was a slight change in one part of my life which was previously making me unhappy and was told “great, I’m glad to hear it” and was on my way with no further support, again. Eventually after a long 7 years of suffering on my own with next to no help from doctors I have finally been prescribed an antidepressant which I have been on for almost 2 months. I can honestly say this pill takes the edge off of daily stresses and makes life that tiny bit easier. I can only think how different my life may have been/worked out if I was given the help and support I needed all those years ago. I am so disappointed at how many appointments and how long it took for any treatment to be offered to me. I could not have pleaded and begged any more than I did. It got to the point where I thought the only way for anyone to listen to me was to make an attempt on my own life. I am one of the lucky ones who have managed to get help after so long but it pains me to think how many people in the same position as myself have not managed to get help. I was failed by the mental health system for so long and I hope that one day we will all be able to get the help and support we need first time because it is the very least we deserve. Mental health is no joke and it’s about time that it stops getting to be treated that way.
Rachel Fletcher, England: My experience with the NHS mental health services has been a car crash from the start. CAMHS were quite frankly diabolical; although they preached the whole medication and therapy working hand in hand, my therapy was stopped the January before my 18th & I was put on antidepressants, seeing a psychiatrist every few weeks until my birthday. Rather than referring me on to adults, they decided to discharge me to the care of my gp despite things getting progressively worse. 3 days after my 18th birthday, in the May I took an overdose & was finally referred to adults. From here I learnt how bad adult services are. In my initial assessment, I was told I would be referred to a psychiatrist & put on a waiting list for emotional coping skills therapy. I saw the psychiatrist in the July who after 10 minutes diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder, my antidepressant dose was put up, I was started on anti-psychotic & anxiety medications & sent on my way. These new medications weren’t monitored by CMHT. In late August, early September I started the ecs therapy which made everything 10xs worse. When we started we were promised a phone call from our 1-1 every week as well as the chance to speak to a facilitator privately during group if we needed. In the 7 weeks or so I did the group- I received just 2 brief phone calls & the occasions I attempted to speak to facilitators, I was made to feel like an inconvenience & not given the time. During this time, my mood continued to decline & it became clear that my medication wasn’t working. We requested to see a psychiatrist & instead one of the ECS OTs suggested some changes despite not being qualified to do so. My GP was not happy to go with these suggestions & it took me slipping even further down before I was given an appointment with a nurse prescriber who changed my antidepressant- once again not monitoring it. In the October, after a lot of contact with the duty team, it was decided that they couldn’t manage my risk in ecs & I should be swapped to full DBT. I had one appointment with my ecs 1-1 after this decision & was then left with no support, extremely suicidal until the DBT letter came through. 3 days before my DBT start date- the therapist rang me to explain she was putting me back on the waiting list with no real explanation. I crumbled & ended up under the Crisis team for weeks until another date came up. In the December, I met the therapist who I’m still seeing now. Despite weekly 1-1 DBT sessions, I still wasn’t coping so after a meeting where it was basically decided I could carry on trying to cope on my own- A nurse in the team offered to work with me in a temporary CPN type structure for 6 weeks. This was the one & only thing that’s ever helped me while under adults but as these sessions came to an end, in my head the whole situation flicked to a negative & things began to decline again. We asked to see a consultant & once again was refused so this time, I decided to pay out of my own money for a private appointment at the Priory, Woking. Which is where I’m at now really. I saw the consultant who came up with some new medication suggestions which my gp is currently working through. However, after phoning & requesting to speak to the CMHT nurse prescriber for some advice- I’ve magically now been given a consultant’s appointment for next month. The whole system is infuriating & I don’t understand what it’s going to take for them to take me seriously. The whole time I’ve been under CMHT- I’ve been refused a multiple times & the opinion of myself, my family & my gp that this would perhaps benefit me massively has been totally disregarded. Thank you for thinking of me- I’m so determined I need to get my voice heard.
Laura, Scotland: I have suffered from mental illness since primary school, however, nobody, not even myself, was aware. I thought my feelings were completely normal, managing to hide any negative emotions from everybody. Until I was 16 years old when I had an absolute breakdown. After a failed suicide attempt, I was in hospital for 3 days. I got assigned a mental health nurse to see me once a week, every Tuesday, at my house. This man was horrific. I don’t like to criticise people, especially not when it comes to how they do their job, but he made things so much worse. He repeatedly told me nothing was wrong with me; not once did he explore what had happened. He shamed me through damaging phrases such as “look what you've done to your parents”, “it was a cry for attention” etc. I have faced a lot of stigma for my illnesses throughout my life but never as much as from the one person who was PAID by the NHS and our taxes to help me overcome an illness which could have taken my life. After only 6 WEEKS, he cleared me saying there was nothing wrong with me. He referred to it as a “small blip”. In my opinion, a suicide attempt is NEVER a blip, nor is it in any way small. I continued to suffer for a further two years, again hidden from everyone. Fast forward two years, I made another attempt. The first thing I was told in the hospital was that my situation was not serious or an emergency, therefore I would be given a phone number if I ever needed it. I apparently did not require any actual help. Myself and my parents were horrified. When would I be considered a serious case? When I was actually dead and it was too late for help? Was that what was required for the NHS to actually take notice of me and how ill I was? I was eventually assigned a community mental health nurse after a further six weeks, which in my opinion was far too long a wait considering the enormity of the situation. That was about 3 months ago and I only get to see her for about 15/20 minutes every three weeks. I have not explored any of the issues or my personal demons with her. I am slowly recovering but that is through self-help, not through the “help” from the NHS. We are now exploring the private health care route and the NHS have proved completely unsatisfactory in their apparent “care” for their people. The NHS is wonderful in many regards, but their disregard and lack of support for the majority of mental health sufferers is disgusting and a change needs to occur.
Laura sums it up perfectly well. The NHS is a magical thing and we are ever so lucky to have access to free healthcare. However, I hope the stories above have helped you to understand why that access doesn’t really exist for some of us. Hundreds of people are being let down daily by the system that is meant to save their lives and it is time to change this. As Mental Health Awareness Week comes to an end, instead of simply sharing a positive quote on social media do 3 things;
- SPEAK UP about mental health
- REACH OUT to your family and friends
- START FIGHTING for a long overdue change in the system.
If you feel you have been let down by the NHS Mental Health Services, Mind have a step by step guide to filing a complaint and fighting for change; https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/legal-rights/complaining-about-health-and-social-care/#.WvzcOlMvzw4 as do Citizens Advice; https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/health/nhs-and-social-care-complaints/nhs-complaints-who-is-your-complaint-against/mental-health-services-complaints/
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this post, I have included some links below to support services:
- NHS Choices: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/
- B-eat: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/
Helpline: 0808 801 0677
Youthline: 0808 801 0711
- National Centre for Eating Disorders: 0845 838 2040
- Samaritans: 116 123 or www.samaritans.org
- Childline: 0800 1111 or www.childline.org.uk
- SEED: 01482 718 180 or www.seedeatingdisorder.co.uk
- For MALES SPECIFICALLY: www.mengetedstoo.co.uk
- https://kooth.com/ (Online Counselling)
- www.papyrus-uk.org or 0800 068 4141 or 07786 209697 (Text)