Mental Health Awareness Week: Lockdown Edition

Mental Health Awareness Week is coming to an end. I’ve been putting off writing about this out of fear of repeating myself and honestly, I didn’t really know what to say. I wrote a very cynical post last year for World Mental Health Day. I still stand by what I said. More people are reaching out for help so we need more funding for mental health services. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that once the lockdown is over, services are going to be even more strained. This is just going to lead to premature discharges from mental health teams for people who have been under their care for years and are currently stable. People like me.

Mental illness is unpredictable. It doesn’t discriminate.  Many things can cause changes to our mental health and stability can be quickly eradicated. This is what worries me. Not so much the fact that I could easily become unwell again; it’s more I could be discharged from services as I currently don’t require constant contact with my CPN and psychiatrist, like I have done in the past. If I do get discharged, the next time I become ill, I’ll have no support. Especially when I move out of supported accommodation.

For some people, being discharged from the mental health team is an achievement. I completely get that. Not everyone wants to rely on services to make them ‘feel better’. For some, it’s a sense of pride. For others’, it’s because they have learnt enough healthy coping skills to help them move on. Everyone’s different. Of course, there’s no shame in receiving help but as it’s all I’ve known for the entirety of my 20s, being discharged is scary, unknown territory.

In a way, I was very fortunate that I didn’t have to sit on a long waiting list to get seen by a psychiatrist. I think I’ve spoken about this previously but I was manic and psychotic at the time of being referred and because I worked in healthcare, I was seen as a priority. I know that this situation is pretty rare but it can and does happen. I just wish more people were as ‘lucky’ as I was. It’s the same with CAMHS. Ten years ago when I was referred, I was accepted first time with suspected OCD, after being on a fairly short waiting list. There is absolutely no way that would’ve been the case if I was referred now. There is a lot more demand for services, which in a way is good because it means more people are seeking help, however with there now being more pressure on young people, there’s a lot more people struggling to cope. No matter which angle you look at it from, you can’t win.

Another point I wanted to bring up is the negative connotation associated with mental health services, especially the crisis team. It doesn’t matter which area you come from; everyone has had at least one bad experience with them. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share and not just with the crisis team, however I have had many positive experiences and I think people tend to forget those times and focus purely on the bad. I have met some amazing healthcare professionals both in inpatient and outpatient settings and unfortunately, they get tarred with the same brush as their colleagues who aren’t as compassionate and see their job as a pay check rather than a vocation. Even if you try to be the best professional as you can be, you’re not going to be liked by everyone and people always remember the things that had the biggest impact, which is usually the bad ones.

Waiting lists are sure to get longer and discredit mental health services even more, but you all need to carry on and try your best. Nobody’s perfect and I’m sure there are a lot of burnt out doctors, nurses and healthcare assistants right now.  Thank you to everyone, from the medical secretaries to the consultant psychiatrists. You are all an integral part of a team who are trying their best under the constraints of poor funding. I do not envy you at all, especially with the current and future situations surrounding Covid.

Even if my time under mental health services has to come to an end at some point, I just want to say I really appreciate the support I’ve received from most of the staff I’ve come into contact with over the years. I really hope that I stay stable for a long time. Yes, there’s a chance I will become ill again but I can’t focus on that. I need to stay positive.

Here’s to the future.

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