Let's revolutionise how we care for those with mental illness
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This topic is one that is close to my heart for personal reasons, but also because it is my strongest belief that all people should have the opportunity to live their lives to the full.
Statistics show that there has been a sharp rise in mental health problems in the UK, and it is now believed that at any one time, a sixth of the population in England alone will be experiencing a mental health issue (BBC News, 2018). With mental health problems on the increase, we really need more education in this area so we have a better understanding and people feel able to seek help properly. Treatment appears to focus on the symptoms alone, which isn’t enough. Many people with a mental health condition feel that they don't know who to turn to – in fact, it is believed that 1 in 3 people with a mental illness are not receiving any sort of treatment (BBC News, 2018), and that the average wait for effective treatment for young people is 10 years (The Guardian, 2017). Clearly, there is a huge gap in the system. Mental health services are stretched to breaking point, with 23% of NHS activity taken up by mental illness, but only 11% of funding directed to mental health trusts. Undeniably, our third sector is stepping up to help and there are some great things in place to support those suffering, but it's just not enough and it has to change for the sake of everyone's health and wellbeing.
My mum is a perfect example of someone who fell through the system and, as a result, has had to be sectioned because there wasn't enough support for her earlier on. It didn't need to get to this stage; with effective treatment and support it could have been prevented a long time ago. Instead, she has been allowed to reach crisis point by a system which has let her down. Why didn't she get the support she needed?
1. Due to budget cuts, to get one-to-one help you need to be at crisis point: extremely ill and not functioning. Visits from mental health workers are not enough; they can only take on board what the mentally ill person is telling them – and, due to their illness, the story they tell is sadly not always true, often because they are in denial, frightened or unable to see the issues with their behaviour. At this point, I believe that family, friends and the workplace should be involved, interviewed by mental health workers to help get a clearer picture on how the person who is suffering needs help and why. Currently, if the patient appears to have "capacity", they are written off. The underlying problem remains and the situation is allowed to spiral.
2. In my mum’s case, she was not given a psychologist when she tried to take her own life. It was an option presented to her, but she thought she didn't need it, so instead of taking into consideration the situation and the testimony of the people around her, it just didn't happen.
3. There appeared to be little or no information available on the illness she had and on coping mechanisms for her day to day life. For any information that she was given, there was no follow up and she was left to try to make her own way. For a person with mental health issues, ongoing support is crucial. Without it, my mum gave up and her situation deteriorated.
4. She wasn't assessed properly, and, as a result has still not found the correct medication.
To give a picture of how long this has been going on, I was 15 when I first convinced her to seek help and get medication and I'm now 30! After years of the wrong medications and a lack of support from mental health services, her manic stage has deteriorated to such a point that she’s now not able to function at all.
5. We need to talk about the term ‘sectioned’. It terrified my mum!
She went into hospital on her own accord. Things were so bad that there was no other option and my mum knew something had to change. The hospital was cold and uncomfortable, and my mum could not sleep even after being given a lot of sleeping tablets. She did not feel comfortable and decided she was going to leave. And leave she did.
I think that had the hospital, her last resort, been a place of peace and comfort, she would have stayed and received the treatment she needed.
6. At age fifteen, I didn't know who to ask for help.
I had not been educated on mental health; it was a taboo issue at the time. It was only through the difficult experience of living with my mum and experiencing anxiety and depression myself that I gained some understanding of what needed to be done. I’m convinced that if there had been more education at school and greater awareness of mental health issues, things would have transpired differently, and we would have been able to access the appropriate help sooner. I think therefore it’s really important that children and young people are educated around mental health as part of their education, both for their own wellbeing and for their ability to recognise problems in the people around them and access the appropriate support.
With limited funding, there are limited treatment options. Mental health issues are categorised and, in my mum’s experience, treatment isn’t individualised. Let's not categorise, name and box mental health illnesses because every single person is so different. I feel we need funding for a system that helps people to heal and recover in their own way. This means not just looking at the symptoms and treating those, but identifying the causes in the environment they are in and the things they have experienced, and listening to what their family and friends have to say about their loved one’s behaviour. This is especially important; some mentally ill people are in denial or not aware that they need help, so they slip through the system. This is when it can get serious and bad things happen – and it seems to be because there is so little understanding of behaviour and an unwillingness to spend the time and money properly investigating the cause of the issue, and gathering evidence from loved ones to be able to make a proper diagnosis.
There’s also so much in our lives that negatively impacts mental health; from fast-paced city lifestyles that leave us with little time for ourselves, to the bombardment of unreal and unachievable expectations from social media platforms, what we eat and the list goes on.
- I believe that if we had something in place where people in need could go to stay that is in nature with affordable food and funded live in Help 24/7, where a full essment is carried out for individuals needs, weither it be just a rest bite or more. We could really achieve a higher rate of people living a healthy life in all areas. And I do think this could also work for physically disabled people too! In the future
There would be outdoor activities and creative activities to help ground, a place of community meditating, yoga even other holistic therapies and doctors. A place of love and support. If this was in place I know it would hugely of helped my mum. There needs to be a legislation in place allowing people experiencing mental health issues to take time off work without fear of recrimination, judgment or losing their job.
This place of rest would have a way of showing and helping people maintain a happy healthy lifestyle, they would learn how the mind actually works, how limited beliefs and the un conscious mind can really hold us back. I believe in mixing holistic therapy with the medical world to achieve the best vest results possible.
- There are many charities out there doing amazing things that I have already mentioned but there isn't enough funding to help everyone, so let's bring these charities together and help them get the funding they so desperately need.
- I want to thank you for taking the time to read this and would like to say one last thing. I would just really love to see more education around mental health so people can seek the help needed and not feel ashamed. To find a more comfortable long standing way of helping people recover so they can have the life they deserve. I would be so grateful for your help in sharing and signing my petition to achieve life long lasting care, support and education for mental health.
- Thank you
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