I’m not ashamed to talk about mental health. Recently, I’ve been struggling quite a bit, which I tried to get help for from my NHS doctor. After a 2 month wait, they referred me to a community mental health team, who wanted to sort me with unemployment benefits, coffee mornings and group talking therapy. This might work for some people, perhaps with situational problems. Maybe if you were having a hard time at home, and needed someone to talk to, or if you were feeling isolated after Covid lockdowns.
However, if you’re dealing with psychiatric conditions, coffee and group talks doesn’t do much. It might even make things worse. Another factor is that I have a job and am doing a degree. I have passions and adventures that I want to go on. I don’t want my life to be ruled by my mental health. My reported symptoms to the GP didn’t “make the cut” to be referred to see an actual psychiatrist, so I was sent to a charity group to allow me to semi-function and no longer be a problem to the GP.
When the GP hangs up the phone, they’re done with patient number 45 of the day. Thing is, on my end, it’s still my life. I’m still here. My problems don’t go away because they’re deemed to not be bad enough to pique the interest of a review board after a five minute explanation to a GP.
I knew that their advice wasn’t right for me. I could no longer self-advocate through NHS means because I could see that I would go in endless circles of “how does that make you feel”, “increase your antidepressants” and “go to group therapy”.
I managed to get an appointment privately through a group called Clinical Partners. They matched me with an accredited psychiatrist with 27 years of experience who could do an appointment over Zoom in the same week. We spent an hour and a half on the call, in which time I could give detailed explanations of what I was experiencing and she could, in return, give me the psychiatric reasoning behind them as she diagnosed me. I cried, because it was the most seen I’ve ever felt by a medical professional. I was able to start her recommended medication, which was couriered to me next day, and I’m feeling so much more balanced. I feel like I have a better quality of life already.
I shouldn’t have had to go privately to get adequate health care. We have a National Health Service for a reason, which is to ensure universal healthcare for all. Our government are draining it to such an extent that when I rang my GP about a prescription, they got back to me a week later, when I was told they didn’t have enough time to talk to me and I’d have to ring back another time.
It is no wonder that the UK is undergoing a mental health epidemic. There are so many people who are not in a position to pay for their care, nor should they have to. I recognise my privilege in being able to do so, but I also recognise the disadvantage that we are put into when we have to spend large amounts of money on something that should be free. Farming us out to charity organisations that aren’t equipped to help us doesn’t work for anyone involved.
My story isn’t isolated. There are hundreds of thousands of people in the same position. We are gaslit for our mental health – where we are told that what we experience doesn’t exist or happen, that we are too young or a multitude of other things to just get us to go away. Unfortunately, many go away and never return. Suicide rates are increasing by 10.9% every year (according to Samaritans) and people with mental illnesses die on average 15-20 years before the rest of the UK population (King’s Fund). Only 11% of the NHS budget is spent on mental health care but mental health patients make up nearly a quarter of those being treated (King’s Fund). We are the forgotten individuals. It is hoped that we never call back. It is our ever-exhausting (both mentally and financially) task to keep self-advocating until the NHS can see us as worthy enough to be their patients.