More help is needed

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It is with shocking regularity that we see stories about people ‘falling’ from the cliffs at Marsden.

The sad fact is, people who find themselves in that desperate situation have been let down. The National Health Service was never really designed to deal with mental health problems and is now not fit for purpose.

It takes a lot for some people to actually admit that they do have a problem and that they do need help. Regardless of the ‘Time to Change’ campaign, featuring well known celebrities, there is still a huge stigma attached to mental health. Family, friends, employers can all portray ignorant and old-fashioned views about ‘nutters’ and ‘psychos’ – without thinking about the impact those views have on sufferers. Why would you want to identify yourself as ‘depressed’ or ‘anxious’ when people have been so intolerant for so long?

But when you do try to access help the real problems begin. There aren’t enough specialist nurses, doctors or counsellors – so there is a long wait to see anybody. Your regular doctor will try to talk you – probably by saying you’ve just ‘got the blues’, or perhaps it’s the winter and the ‘darker nights’ are the problem.

Maybe your doctor will think you’re genuinely depressed and hand out tablets like they’re sweets – and they’ll leave you on them for years without looking for the root of your problem. It’s only when you put on loads of weight that they might look at how long you’ve been taking your meds and why you need to ‘comfort eat’ so much. Or maybe you’ve been self-medicating with alcohol because it helps you get to sleep, and your GP wants to help you cut your intake. Priority is given to obesity and alcoholism – but not to people with suicidal thoughts.

If you do find yourself in the hands of the Community Mental Health Team or Talking Therapies then expect some long waits between appointments. Don’t expect to see the same face more than once or twice because they have a problem with staff sickness and staff retention. You might have to make 40 or 50 minute bus journeys to see somebody because they’ve closed your local service provider – and that’s brilliant news for people with social phobias or anxiety.

The services now offered by the NHS aren’t going to be much help for desperate people – most of them are courses designed to get you out of the house or ‘ready for work’. The community team doesn’t offer support or counselling – if you want somebody to talk to they’ll tell you to contact a charity (they call them ‘Third Sector Partners’, but they’re talking about ‘Mind’ and such like). Calling the Samaritans offers more help than the NHS.

We are putting the care of desperate people – including children – into the hands of volunteers. Until something changes and Mental Health services are given a massive overhaul then I’m afraid we’re going to be reading more and more stories about tragic incidents at Marsden.

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