This article is perhaps is directed rather generically, but I think by large that it applies to you all. Whether you work for the NHS, or know someone that does, or have ever been to them for help. Read on, and see what you can do to help.
After an article written after the tragic news of Gary Speed’s death, I must firstly thank you all the positive responses. Its with that courtesy and kindness that I have the strength and courage to write this.
To share my point, I must firstly share something personal with you all. To warn you, it might be hard to read, or difficult to process. But its something that needs to be said. And I truly hope it does astound you. Shock you into speaking up. Taking action. Doing something about it. As it astounds me too.
Recently, someone close to me tried to commit suicide. I will leave out details, as frankly those are irrelevant, it is a situation many have (and unfortunately many more) will be in. It was distressing for those around, but fortunately, in this instance, no harm was done. After a foiled second attempt, I called an ambulance, which turned up with two police officers. (Standard procedure apparently). All rather quick, rather efficient. After 20- forced-calm-minutes on the telephone through intermittent tears, I was glad of some support. Some back up.
I explained the situation, and although nothing had been ‘done’ per cé, I was upset, and wanted *something* to change. I didn’t want to be here again. Here but worse. I wanted help.
I explained I have a knowledge of mental health, that TWICE now, although the individual had tried, luckily has come to no long lasting harm. I explained their situation, why I thought that perhaps things had gotten as bad as they were. How I’d been there myself many many years ago, and now was the time to help. I can only do so much on my own, and I reached out an arm for support.
The arm was pushed back. The paramedic looked at me blankly, and gave the following response. And I promise you, this was Word. For. Word.
“I appreciate your concern, but sometimes, if people want to kill themselves, you just have to let them do it…”
I was furious. The sentiment, at very least, was outrageous. How dare he?! How dare someone who’s job, who’s very purpose was to save lives, condemn this one, because what, he had a long day? Or it was close to finishing? Or this time, in *his* opinion that person wasn’t deemed worthy enough to give any sort of support?
I contained (most) of my rage. Kept my voice calm. (To this day, I have no idea how). Explained if he had any idea what impact his and implications his uneducated and unfelt attitude would have on ANYONE (let alone anyone in a suicidal situation) he would resign immediately and hang his head in eternal shame.
I overheard the same paramedic saying I was “emotional” to Said Person. That was I perhaps, unstable? I had confided in him to explain how I came to know so much about mental health. How that yes, Said Person will seem rational. Because when you get to that point, that eternal dilemma, there seems to be only one viable, almost logical option. You stop caring. You make jokes and pretend its okay. You lie. You do what you deem necessary. Its only later on and look back that you realise it was a mistake. And how not everyone has the benefit of that hindsight. And yes. Yes I was emotional. But after someone trying to kill themselves twice, you would be emotionally worse for wear and, dare I say it, upset?!
Said person heard everything. The whole thing. The disregard to their health. The nonchalance in his voice. The underlying and hurtful “I really don’t care”.
Said Person is fortunately is doing much better. For now. Myself? I couldn’t be more consumed with anger.
Now, for many, I am aware its a touchy subject. It raises sadness, bad memories, reflection.
Said person had been feeling low for a while, and after pushing and encouragement had been to their local NHS Doctor on a few occasions. They tried out various tablets and medications, the ‘go to’ for fixing any mental health problem. Anti-depressants are to paracetamol as depression is to a ‘sprained ankle’ it seems. “There, there. It will pass. Smile”. An archaic approach to one of the most complex issues facing human beings and society today.
After many weeks of ‘trial and error testing’ it was resolved that nothing more can be done with the NHS, they were at a lose end. The next step would be counselling or therapy of sorts. A somewhat traditional next step. “Frightfully sorry,” they said. “But the Mental Health budgets have nigh-on been scrapped in this area. Does one mind pottering off to the Priory? They can definitely help you. Hate to be a bore though, but it’ll cost you £400 as well. Cheerio!”
And that, as they say, was that.
Anyone who has been through depression know it is a force to be reckoned with. Destroying your spirit, the leech of your life, sucking away your very being. Depression is the cancer of the soul. Which is an apt lead on to my next point.
In 2008, there were more than 156,000 cancer deaths in the UK. For suicide it was reported at over a million. And over 90% of those are reported are linked to individuals with a Mental Health disorder. I think the facts speak for themself.
To clarify (before the barrage of abuse begins) I am by no means critising the money invested into Cancer research, treatment or any such things. I myself have raised a substantial amount for charities. But my point is thus, where do you draw the line? What makes one illness more ‘worthy’ than another? Atheist or otherwise, who gets to play God?
So, my point to the NHS is this;
Thank you for your recent insight into Mental Health. Thank you for highlighting that essentially, we (in our millions) are not deemed as important, as worthy as the ‘Normaltons’ out there.
I know you will throw many a case and success story, showing those has came through the other end. The people proclaiming “We’re all better now”. Good for them and a good old pat on the back for you. But I will throw ten fold that, others that have hit so many brick walls that the only way out is a permanent, terminal, irreversable one. I have heard so many stories that my heart breaks a little more each time, and is replace with a little more contempt for our Countries Health Service.
So I put to you this. We will fight back. We will raise money. We will petition and scream from the rooftops if we need to. We will help fundraise for charities that are inundated EVERY DAY with THOUSANDS of people just like Said Person that needs help.
We won’t just disappear, as an unsightly blemish on your annual expenses. We won’t sit quietly in the corner whilst we are cut from a service we are paying for. Something proactive and constructive must be done. Give us the support we deserve, we need.
We are people. We have voices.
If you are affected by suicide in any way or have any suicidal thoughts then please get some help. There is ALWAYS help and ALWAYS someone to listen.
The Samaritans: 08457 90 90 90
What to Do in a Crisis: