World Suicide Prevention Day 2021: trigger warning - The reality of mental healthcare in the U.K!
Updated: Jan 28
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and I really wanted to write something to coincide with it but I’m going to struggle because, once again, I am having my own issues to contend with, and I really need to prioritise my own mental health again and back away from the whole topic for a bit.
It is currently 03.09a.m and I have been awake since 01.41 having fallen asleep at midnight. I thought I might as well write this post as lie awake all night, but I'm warning you that I'm sleep deprived and angry and the reality of what I'm about to divulge is upsetting so read on at your own risk!
My mind is a whirr with thoughts of my friends, so many of them in crisis at the moment, and desperately hanging on by a thread.
The whole ‘Suicide Prevention Day’ theme has raked up a lot of memories of my friend Tom as well, and I was in tears twice yesterday because of my proximity to the subject matter.
The truth is - I shouldn’t be here. I should have gone already because there’s no way that what I had was survivable. I have cheated death and I’m now trying to come to terms with everything that’s happened.
This is not easy at all.
Supporting and helping people in the right way
I have now written two detailed posts with advice for what to do and say if you are either suicidal yourself, or you are trying to support someone who is. See here:
24.03.21: How to help a suicidal person: https://www.dyingtostayalive.com/post/what-to-do-if-someone-tells-you-that-they-feel-suicidal-and-how-to-support-and-help-them
09.09.21: Dos and DON’Ts when helping support the suicidal person https://www.dyingtostayalive.com/post/suicide-prevention-month-2021-what-to-say-what-not-to-say-to-someone-on-the-edge-with-depression
So, I have actually already explained what people need to do to help us when we’re in crisis, but the overarching point is that it really isn’t that complicated – just treat them with compassion and repeatedly tell them that they are loved because they cannot access any kind of positive emotion or feeling and they are in deep, deep suffering - be patient and beg them to stay.
Unfortunately, none of this is happening and this is another reason why I’m sat here typing this at 03.18a.m because I know that the insensitivity of uneducated imbeciles is propelling people to their deaths, as is the horrendously substandard care that’s currently on offer to anyone who’s brave enough to actually ‘seek help’.
The brutal reality of the current situation
I’m not in the mood to get political and I’m not an aggressive person, (I’m also sleep deprived and can barely proof read this post ((is it proof read or proofread or proof-read - I don't care anymore!)) let alone think about sentence structure), but I suppose there’s a difference between being argumentative and being assertive so I’m just going to say it now and stop skirting around the issue –
THE CURRENT SUPPORT AND HELP OUT THERE IS APPALLING AND IT’S FAILING PEOPLE TIME AND AGAIN.
I haven’t got the strength to go into this and I don’t really know how I feel about it all at the moment (apart from desperately sad and seriously upset and exhausted), but the NHS is in a state of total chaos.
It was massively overstretched before COVID hit but now that we’ve been through the pandemic, things are now in an almighty mess because of the millions of stacked up appointments and an enormous backlog of overdue operations and procedures.
I haven’t got the strength to get political but there’s all sorts of ridiculous goings on at the moment and, as usual, no one agrees on anything – but who suffers as a result? Yes the poor patient…
Part of the problem is that people are expecting too much from the NHS and using it for all sorts of cosmetic procedures and sex changes (Ok I accept that everyone has a different opinion), but this is all being prioritised above those in serious danger of taking their own lives.
So, really the question I'm now asking myself is:
“What kind of hope is there for improvements in mental healthcare now?!”
A ‘case in point’ scenario
This has all been demonstrated so precisely through the horrendousness that my friend has just been subjected to after going to A&E this week in a ‘mixed state’ bipolar episode with terrifying suicidal thoughts.
Two days ago, he told me that he was having such horrendous racing negative thoughts that he just knew that he couldn’t survive it any longer, and he didn’t have any medication for sleep or anxiety or anything at all.
He was in tears on the phone and because he just couldn’t take it anymore – it reminded me of when my friend Tom was crying in agony on the phone to me four years ago and I have therefore been on the phone with him repeatedly because I cannot lose another friend to this disorder, and I’m frankly terrified for him – even though no one in the profession seems to be in the least bit concerned.
I’m not a psychiatrist but he told me that he was hardly sleeping, and I know that sleep is the foundation for everything so I told him to make an immediate appointment with his GP so that he could at least get something to help him sleep. He did – but he came away with nothing at all!
He should have been given lorazepam to abate the racing thoughts and low dose quetiapine for sleep and admitted to a ward to keep him safe, but of course - he wasn’t.
(I also should point out that going into a chaotic psychiatric ward when suicidal isn’t the most ideal of scenarios for someone who already wants too kill themselves but I’m too tired to go there at 03.39a.m)
I’m not sure what the hell happened with that GP but anyway, he was then in crisis again yesterday afternoon of course, and told me that he was suicidal and couldn’t survive it, so we decided that he must go to A&E which is what you are told to do if you think your life is in danger.
We stayed in touch all evening until about 10.30pm when he had already waited in A&E for 4.5 hours after watching every physical case of ill health be prioritised above him.
Apparently he was asked ‘Are you suicidal?’ to which he replied:
“I am having suicidal thoughts yes.”
He was then asked again ‘But are you suicidal?’
I can only think they were asking: ‘Are you going to throw yourself down the stair well while you wait in the queue or are you safe to leave there suffering in suicidal hell for a few hours longer while we prioritise physical health problems above you?’
Anyway, he sat there (thank God he had a friend with him) for 5 hours before eventually seeing a mental health nurse who couldn’t prescribe anything because the psychiatrist had left at 5pm!!!
This is simply NOT GOOD ENOUGH - this is what happens when you go to A&E for God's sake! But sadly it doesn’t surprise me at all since when I was an INPATIENT in a mental hospital I once waited 12 hours to see the duty doctor after requesting to see one at 4.30 on a weekday afternoon! Hospital?!?! It’s an absolute joke it really, really is.
My friend was then told that a psychiatrist would be doing a home visit the next evening (which was yesterday), but only a mental health nurse showed up who obviously couldn’t prescribe anything and even questioned why he would want an antipsychotic medication when he was in a mixed state and not psychotic – clearly no education whatsoever in psychiatry!
How are people who are that ignorant employed in ‘life or death’ jobs like this? It makes you wonder, it really does. The frustration and disappointment in all of this is palpable.
The long and short of it, is that my mate has been in suicidal crisis since Tuesday and is now heading into the weekend without having seen a psychiatrist. How can that be possible?!!
This is the reality of the situation when you do reach out for help! The Government messages of ‘SEEK HELP’ and / or ‘TALK’ are a complete waste of time when the care when you do reach out for it is so appallingly substandard.
And we wonder why suicide rates are so horrendously bad!
I will keep this boy alive myself!
I realise that this is a massive problem and that it needs billions of pounds to sort it out so in the meantime I will just keep gratuitously helping people and trying to educate everyone else.
Both myself and my friend have been through hell with this illness and we have both been in tears on the phone yesterday because even though he is SO RESILIENT this illness is just SO BRUTAL and I have been reminded of just how terrible the state of care and support really is.
This is what people need to understand – when we rock up at A&E - grown men with ridiculous amounts of strength and resilience – we are in a life-threatening situation and in an ENORMOUS amount of suffering and pain.
1 in 5 with our condition dies – it’s a HORRIFIC, BRUTAL, HORRIFYING illness – can people please start to appreciate this?!!
I was thinking yesterday on my walk that anyone who’s been through the degree of suffering that we have should be given a medal just for surviving to this point (especially in view of the ‘help’ we’ve been subjected to), anything we manage to do after this is a bonus - so don’t expect us to parachute back into our lives and become uber successful overnight! We need a lot of time and patience still, and even when you get to the point where I am - it is still a daily battle to keep on top of it all and maintain the equilibrium!
I know that no one but another sufferer could understand any of this but please can you all try?
Backing off again!
This post has been traumatic to write, and I am now exhausted so hopefully, now that it is 03.57, I will actually be able to sleep….
I need some time off from writing about mental health/illness for my own mental health/illness again, and it is my birthday on Monday so I’m taking some time to focus on other things! (like sleep, and R&R)
I will be back by the middle of next week with more educational insights!
God help anyone out there in crisis – and I mean it - God please, please help them.
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,