• Tom Robinson

£79 million allocated to children's mental health as a result of increased problems due to COVID-19

There was an article on the BBC News page on Friday which detailed the government spending on children's mental health, with a figure of £79 million being allocated to help them.


The money will go towards supporting children in school and in the community, who are suffering to a greater degree due to the pandemic's restrictions.


A rather cheesy picture of Boris Johnson and Dr Alex George was released which I didn't think was particularly appropriate, considering the seriousness of the situation, and although I'm pleased that attention is being drawn to mental health through Dr Alex's celebrity, I do have a few problems with it.


I don't really want to be too opinionated because I know that that's setting me up to be attacked by others, but I know I'm not alone in my thoughts and observations.


I'm questioning why someone who left medicine to become a reality TV star should be given such an ambassadorial role especially considering the fact that he has no experience or training in child or adolescent psychiatry of any note whatsoever.


There must be thousands of better qualified and articulate young psychiatrists out there who would have been better suited to the post, yet the government has reinforced the fact that the fame culture is more important than knowledge and education.


If you have an Instagram following it would seem that you can get into anything nowadays regardless of qualifications or experience, and I'm sorry but that's not right.


I am also worried that he's been talking about mental health but in a sort of 'well-being' sense again. I don't think he's comfortable talking about mental illnesses, and I'm assuming that's because he doesn't have the medical knowledge. Anyway, we will see what he decides to focus on in the future I suppose.


It is reported in the article, that half of mental health problems present in people by the age of 14, but I can't believe that this is right unless we're diagnosing children's feelings as mental health conditions which is also a big problem.


In the article Emma Thomas who is CEO of the charity Young Minds, warns us about the potential problems involved in 'medicalising' children. She explains that children who don't need formal mental health treatment might benefit from the introduction of mental health support in schools, which is where a lot of the £79 million will be spent.


But isn't this mental wellbeing again? What about those with real debilitating mental illnesses? Will the money ever reach them I wonder?


I've tried to look up figures for mental health spending, but there's just lots of unexplained expenditures. I'd like us all to be better informed about this by Nadine Dorries, who is the Minister for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Patient Safety. Why do we never see her interviewed yet we get Dr Alex plastered all over our news feeds and TV shows? It's completely wrong.


I know that the money isn't reaching those that really need it and I can illustrate this by telling you about my most recent experience.


After nearly 20 years of NHS failures which included all sorts of miscommunications and medically induced problems (the last being when I was nearly killed by ketamine infusions), I gave up with the NHS and went privately.


I'd exhausted all options, so I had no choice except to seek costly treatment, but recently I've had to plead with the NHS to help me with the expense of all of this, and I'll now reveal what happened to illustrate my point.


Firstly, I have applied for funding twice now and I'm still waiting to hear back, the original application being made nearly two years ago. But I am now struggling to pay for even repeat prescriptions so I decided to see if I could get an NHS psychiatrist to help me with this.


I predicted this, but what a performance that turned out to be! I rang to see if this simple request of a repeat prescription could be done for me. I was told I needed to be referred to a psychiatrist through my GP even though I have a case history of 20 years on the NHS and my bipolar disorder is classed as 'severe mental illness'.


So I spoke to my GP, she referred me to a psychiatrist and then I waited a month to get the appointment. I knew it would be this long, so I was expecting it, but if I'd been in crisis then how is that ok? I've previously waited while being suicidal, for six months to see a therapist, and this is the reality of the problem in the current system.


Finally I had the appointment but with a locum psychiatrist who wouldn't be assigned to me in the long term. So I had to explain everything from virtually the beginning of my illness which was exhausting, but she then did do the right things and I was prescribed some of the drugs that I needed. The amount of drug was prescribed wrong though, so I then had to fight with phone calls to get this sorted out.


Then I wanted another simple repeat for a drug that they don't recognise fully on the NHS. I can't remember what they call this I think it's 'blacklisted' anyway, they usually just tell me 'sorry, no you can't have this' without further explanation. This is so annoying because I'm left wondering why there's a discrepancy between private prescribing and the NHS but the answer is that THERE IS!


Long story, but cutting to the chase, I then rang my assigned team at the psychiatric hospital (which is the equivalent of calling 999 for mental health), and no one answered the phone. I called back four times that day and still no one answered. I left two messages and nothing happened. I then rang the main switchboard and told the receptionist I wanted to go through to complaints. Made a complaint thorough an answering machine! This is too stupid to go on but you see my point - not good enough at all.


When I finally spoke to someone days later, I explained that when a person is suicidal you've very often only got that one chance to help them when they make that first call, and that's why we're losing people. Her answer? She replied 'what do you mean losing people? I was so exasperated by this point that I just gave up and politely finished the conversation and hung up.


I did finally get what I wanted, but it took ages and I had to fight for it by sending emails and repeatedly leaving messages, all of which I was fortunately able to do because I'm well, but with depression I wouldn't have had the mental strength to follow it up.


So there's an example of what the system is like for mentally ill patients who are even assigned to teams. God only knows what's happening with those experiencing their first episodes.


I'm now not going to bother trying to carry on with the NHS for mental health, I'd rather cripple myself financially and get unbelievably good care and service by my private doctor's practice instead, but how is any of this ok? Answer - it's not.


I'm going to sign off now before I rant any further, but we need to be prioritising the services available to mental health patients before ploughing money into teaching children 'mindfulness' and 'self-care'.


If they want someone with direct experience to explain and highlight all of these issues, then of course I will put myself forward. I'm not just going to sit behind the safety of my computer screen proffering opinions and pointing out problems, I'm genuinely prepared to help with all of this, but I know I won't get noticed because I don't have personal social media accounts with millions of followers, nor do I want them either!


If you would like to read the article about government spending on the BBC News page then you can find it here.


Thanks for reading,


Speak to you soon,

TR

www.dyingtostayalive.com