Why I Am Worried About NHS Mental Health Services

Some background:

I’m nearly 20 years old and have suffered from mental health problems since I was approximately 12 years old. I have been using NHS services to try and tackle these problems since I was 17. I’m politically aware and like most people who are, am increasingly concerned about our national health system. However mental health services seem to be taking most of the recession’s brunt when it comes to healthcare. I’m 20 years old, a full-time university student. I want to recover as soon as possible – not only so that I can live my life to the full but also so I can contribute fully to society. It’s in the economic (and other!) interests of this country that those of us who are so suffering be able to recover as quickly as possible. Mental health services are vital, especially in the NHS because most of us simply cannot afford to go private. I am worried about NHS Mental Health Services.

I am worried because I had to wait 3 months for my first appointment with a specialist young person’s psychologist and psychiatrist. Three months in the depth of depression. I had to wait a further 3 months for the follow-up. A further fortnight before the recommended young person’s counselling began. That’s over sixth months before anyone decided to begin treatment. I was wiped off the specialist records as soon as I was sent to counselling. I wasn’t able to keep up with the counselling. Who followed me up to make sure I wasn’t just suffering in silence? No one. I am worried about NHS mental health services.

I am worried because it was an entire year later (and two failed attempts at counselling) from my initial assessment that I was first offered medication.I am worried because other people are routinely sent off with pills in their first consultation with a General Practioner. I am concerned about the lack of uniformity with regards to anti-depressants. Traditionally young people are first tried on Fluoxetine (also known as Prozac). I was put onto Citalopram instead…why? I will never know. There was no discussion of different anti-depressants, only “I will try you on this” – no explanation, and no warning of how horrendous the side-effects were likely to be within the initial fortnight. There was also no effort to re-engage me with talking therapies at this point. I am worried about NHS mental health services.

I am worried because despite having a history of serious mental health problems, my new University GP insisted I first go to University-run counselling before trying the local NHS talking therapies. This counselling was non-specialist with regards to my mental health problems of depression, self-injury, and by now increasingly severe anxiety, with a maximum of 6 sessions. I dropped out of this early too – with no follow up by anyone, certainly not my GP. I am worried about NHS mental health services.

I am worried because my serious anxiety disorder was quickly treated with a dosage of increase in my anti-depressant (which had no effect but to give me further side-effects), and then beta-blockers and not with a talking therapy. Beta-blockers effectiveness are very limited, but there was simply no question with my GPs of them offering me the medicinal ‘next step up’ for anxiety – traditionally benzodiazepines. On the other hand, some people are pushed onto these drugs very quickly and for long periods of time, developing destructive addictions with no support to come off them. I am worried about NHS mental health services.

I am worried because when I tried to kill myself, the ambulance staff took around 10 minutes trying to figure out how to get to me because I lived in student halls. People can die in that ten minutes. When I got to the hospital there was no space, no beds – I was queued up against a corridor wall in a line of other people who had also been rushed into A + E via ambulance, in my pyjamas in front of crowds of other people, both sick and not. I was then put in an extremely overcrowded room, with elderly people fading in and out of consciousness on beds in the middle of the room as there weren’t enough cubicles. I waited around three hours for a bed to be available for me in a ward, and it was the middle of the night. Only one nurse ever had the time to just ask me how I was feeling. I was cold, scared, and alone.

I am worried because I was allowed to leave the hospital the next afternoon – yes, I had to first have an appointment with two psychiatrists from the Deliberate Self-Harm unit. They gave me a five minute chat in which I was allowed to spill out some of my worries and in response given a list of helplines and discharged without any follow-up. I am worried about NHS mental health services.

I am worried because when I went home for the summer, despite my Uni GP wanting me to get Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), the waiting list was so long (around 3 months) that I would have managed one (inital assessment) appointment before I would be back in my uni city. Once arriving back in my uni city the wait for an initial talking therapies assessment was almost 5 weeks.  I am worried about NHS mental health services.

I am worried because I want to recover. I am pushed from one healthcare worker to another in quick succession. Nobody follows up on appointments, nobody checks that I have met with who I have meant to have met with. I do not have adequate access to talking therapies, and GPs are so varied with their views on anti-depressant medication that it is just pot-luck what happens to my medication depending on which doctor I end up seeing. I am worried because physical ill-health is explained away for far too long as being symptoms of bad mental health without any investigation to rule out other causes, resulting in me suffering needlessly for extended periods of time from poor physical health largely unrelated to my mental health.  I am worried because far too often I am offered just telephone appointments with a GP which involve doing the depression inventory test over the telephone and a repeat prescription – nothing else. I am worried because I struggle to afford my medication.

I am worried about the NHS mental health services, and this is why you should be too.

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