I feel like I need to clarify something. My last post, about the sorry state of our mental health services, has gotten quite a response. I’ve had people contact me sharing similar, if not worse experiences, and every other day there seems to be a new horror story in the media about someone else’s dealings with psychiatric services. Our mental health services are taking a serious verbal beating at the moment, and rightly so.
But what I’m concerned about right now is the frontline people, those actually providing the services. They are not at fault. I’ve been so frustrated over the years with trying to get access to my psychiatrist, or having to deal with constantly changing doctors. However, I can’t blame her for that, I blame the system she works within. Resources are far too scarce on the ground, and completely over stretched. I realise how lucky I am to have been able to see her more or less consistently for the last few months, and I think it’s that consistency that has brought me as close as I currently am to accessing dbt.
Massive, sweeping changes are needed to improve service provision for people, to stop the kinds of crises we’re hearing about almost daily from even having the chance to develop. Perhaps now more than ever there is huge need for support – people are far more willing to talk about mental health, and the stigma around it is slowly being chipped away. But the upshot of that can only mean that demand on services will continue to increase.
We need affordable, timely access to talk therapy. Not of the time limited, 6 session variety, but as long as it takes. For some, 6 sessions is plenty. For others, myself included, it’s nowhere near enough. If anything, it’s actually more damaging than nothing because it risks opening wounds that won’t have time to close before the end of therapy, and that has the potential to leave someone in a worse state than when they actually started. I was recently turned away from a service because I was told that given my history, 6 sessions would do more harm than good. While I get the rationale on a practical level, it did leave me in a fairly serious quandary – yes, the service in question most certainly agreed that I needed support, but they weren’t going to be the ones to provide it. They couldn’t tell me who would either.
We need support within the community. There needs to be someone to call when there’s a crisis, other than a helpline, particularly for those of us who are already engaged with services. There’s no joined up thinking – if I have a serious crisis and call, let’s say, the Samaritans, the only way my psychiatrist finds out is if I remember to tell her. Given that appointments can be months apart there’s a strong possibility I wouldn’t remember. But she needs to know what’s going on. There needs to be someone at the end of the phone who can join the dots, and make sure the right people know what’s going on.
I guess what I’m really trying to say right now is we need to be careful about where we’re laying blame. My GP, Therapist, my psychiatrist – everyone who has been involved in treating me over the years has, I believe, done so to the best of their ability, and have more than once gone above and beyond. I cannot begin to imagine how stressful and frustrating it must be for them to work in such a broken system, and it’s the chronic limitations therein that are causing the problems.
I don’t know what I can do about this other than keep shouting. Maybe eventually we’ll be heard?