Dr Alex appointed as youth mental health ambassador
Updated: Mar 4
It was announced by the Prime Minister yesterday that Dr Alex George will become the country's youth mental health ambassador."Dr Alex," as he is commonly known, is a reality star who gained fame from the TV show Love Island. It is hoped that the combination of his clinical expertise as well as his own personal experience will enable him to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people in this country.
The George family have direct experience of the devastation that can be caused by mental health disorders. Their son and brother 'Llŷr' who was nineteen at the time, took his own life last July after experiencing a mental health crisis which was exacerbated by the pandemic. Llŷr was a young, gifted and highly intelligent young man, he had even been accepted to study medicine and was due to start his degree last September. You can read the full article in The Mail Online here. There is also an interview with Dr Alex which I have added to the home page.
Why is it then that people with doctor siblings plus their own insight into medical conditions still feel that their only option is to permanently end things? Why are we losing doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to suicide?
The answers to these questions are complicated and each person's own situation is going to be unique but I have never heard anyone speak publicly about how devastatingly horrendous it is to be suffering from severe depression and suicidal ideation. The advice in the media is to talk and be open about what you are experiencing which is obviously a fantastic message, however, so many people do talk about their mental health problems but this doesn't mean that they just magically go away! I feel as though these messages are being sent out by people who only experience the usual ebbs and flows of mood - obviously for them a good chat and a chance to let it all out is going to help but if you have a mental health condition you are still going to be experiencing terrible symptoms even if you do 'let it out'.
The problems that Dr Alex is going to come up against in trying to improve mental health care and provision are vast. The current system doesn't work at all and it needs a complete overhaul. I wrote about this in an earlier post when I was discussing the failures that led to Will Young's brother's suicide. Rupert had tried to get help yet had not even been seen by a psychiatrist even when he went to the psychiatric hospital voicing his suicidal thoughts and worries. It is a system that is failing so many people. In my last admission on the NHS I saw the psychiatrist once a week for half an hour. It's just pathetic.
The problems with the staff come down to lack of education. When trying to explain to a nurse that I had suicidal racing thoughts her response was "Well you haven't done it yet," absolutely (insert f word 'ing) ridiculous! There are still psychiatrists doling out medications with statements like "you may feel worse when you take this before you feel better" - absolutely PREPOSTEROUS - the patient thinks "Oh my God! I'm going to feel worse than this? I'm already suicidal how can it be any worse?" It's a terrible philosophy that the doctors are giving out - even the psychiatrists need educating about how to converse with a person who is on a knife edge with a mental health issue.
I didn't see a councellor, therapist or psychologist at any point in my last three-month-long admission. In fact, not even one person sat down with me and asked what the hell had happened to me and why I'd wound up on a psych ward again. There are some excellent staff but not nearly enough and none of them have any time. There was one incredible nurse, let's call her "Rosie" who was trying to give everyone her time but she was literally running around the ward trying to do everything from administering medication and talking to worried parents on the phone to chatting to the patients about their concerns.
We need 500,000 Rosie's in our psychiatric wards! The other problem is that they need splitting down - How is is ok to have someone who is psychotic on the same ward as someone who has just tried to kill themselves? There's manic patients wrapped up in loo roll running down the corridors, psychotic patients smashing windows, manic patients arguing with each other while the anxious and stressed patients try to sit quietly and hold on to their sanity. It's chaos and it's just not an environment that's going to suit someone who is mentally shattered after a suicide attempt.
These vulnerable people need to be able to go to a secure, quiet and comfortable place to recover. There is one of these places set up in Liverpool - it is called James' Place. I am going to talk about James and his legacy in a later post so be sure to check back in!
As usual please share so that these messages can reach the people they so desperately need to.
I wish Dr Alex George all the luck in the world! And of course if they want the input from the patient's perspective I will be only too happy to offer my services!
Thanks for reading!