Why I'm terrified for those in crisis this Easter: advice on what to do in a mental health emergency
Today is Good Friday and we are now entering four days of Easter holiday which is a great opportunity for some rest and relaxation.
However, for those struggling with mental health issues, there will be no break at all, since symptoms of depression and other mental illnesses don't subside just because it's a bank holiday!
I've missed years at a time from my life while literally 'dying to stay alive' and I can tell you that weekends, bank holidays, birthdays and especially Christmas are the absolute WORST days to be suffering from mental illness. This is because you have an expectation of happiness, rest, relaxation and respite that would be so welcome yet does not come your way at all.
I feel extremely worried for those in crisis at any time of the year but especially so over the holiday periods, because I know that it is even harder to make contact with mental health services, and obtain the right help and support.
Getting hold of people is almost impossible even at the best of times in NHS psychiatric care. I have mentioned this in a previous post but just to illustrate the point again I'll tell you about my experience from this week.
Although I have a private psychiatrist, I am still using the NHS for prescribing a drug that I've been on for years in an attempt to reduce private appointments and cut down the exorbitant costs.
I rang the NHS psychiatric team that I'm assigned to on Monday morning to try to get a repeat prescription before the Easter break. I rang the number and (predictably) no one answered the phone - this is the equivalent of ringing 999 for mental health yet it happens again and again.
I don't enjoy complaining but I know it's essential because (although I'm not in crisis), those that are don't have time to wait, and some of them are using their last bit of credit to make the call! Last time that this happened (it happens EVERY time I call) someone eventually called me back and thanked me for making a stand for other people, but that was over a month ago and NOTHING has changed.
I know that things are difficult at the moment with offices not being manned because of COVID but why can't the phone number be diverted to someone's mobile? Sorry to say this again but mental health care on the NHS is an absolute shambles.
After the failed attempt at getting hold of someone, I then sent an email and got an auto reply saying 'sorry this email account is not being monitored' even though that was the email address I was told to use when I spoke to someone a month ago!
Cutting to the chase, I did eventually speak to someone who assured me that it would be done but it still hasn't been processed so I am now short of medication over Easter which is not good enough at all.
Fortunately, I know a friend who is on the same drug (this should not be happening but unfortunately this IS my only option), so if I get desperate I know she will give me some but HOW is this OK?!!
The system fails people because nothing happens fast enough which is why medications are not reaching patients and people are allowed to get to crisis point before anything is done about it.
When I was given ketamine for resistant depression, I wasn't given any emergency numbers and there was no aftercare or follow-up at all between appointments. The result was that even though I made countless attempts to get help, my condition got to crisis point, so that by the time I got to the hospital I was in a full-blown manic crisis.
I then waited with a police officer (stressed out and fully manic) for FIVE hours until a bed on the ward could be found for me. The result of this was that my condition got worse and worse and I was then bulldozed to the floor in the most inhumane and traumatic way and forcibly injected with antipsychotics and sedatives. I then spent three stressful months incarcerated on a psychiatric ward, all of which could have been avoided had I received earlier medical support and intervention.
It's completely unjust to say this, but if you are prepared to pay then you get immediate and excellent service. Calls are answered instantly and a doctor will phone you back within a couple of hours. The only problem is that when you go privately, very often they don't offer an out of hours service so there are still going to be times when you find it difficult to get help.
My advice over the Easter break and at all other times of crisis would be to ring 999 if the person's or your own life is in danger, 111 for support or advice, or any of the other numbers on the home page. The Samaritans and other support charities WILL answer the phone and will then guide you to resources and help you to reach the relevant people.
However, the problem with calling 999 is that the police come to the house and it is really upsetting and traumatic because very often they restrain people in handcuffs (this happened to me) and that propels the patient into a manic or psychotic rage.
EARLY INTERVENTION IS KEY TO AVOIDING ALL OF THIS!
It's not necessarily the fault of individual people that the system is failing people so badly but rather the system as a whole.
Last night I looked up a few facts and figures and was shocked to find out that in under-developed countries there are only 1.5 psychiatrists per 1 million people! In the U.K it isn't vastly better with only 23 psychiatrists per 1 million and we actually have the second lowest number of doctors per capita in the whole of Europe! Admittedly that's because we're massively over-populated for the size of the country but this is still not right.
The NHS is swamped and drowning not only because of COVID but because of the rising need for health care across the board. But we are expecting it to help everyone and are treating all sorts of things on the NHS that we never did before, like cosmetic surgeries and sex changes.
I am completely aware that it's difficult to provide a service that meets the needs of everyone, especially when 1 in 4 have a mental health condition, so maybe we are all going to have to contribute to make this happen?
I have no idea about the reality of the situation financially, but I do know that the system is not working and I will firstly highlight this through my own experience and that of others, and then I will be campaigning for change and fundraising in an attempt to help!
I'm not just going to sit here making suggestions and pointing out problems, I genuinely want to make a difference and help to enact improvements and changes!
I will be having a break over Easter to recharge and relax but will be back with more mental health/illness insights on Tuesday!
Thanks for reading,