(Picture by Ilkka Kallio)
Welcome to yet another instalment of ‘Shit depressed people have to hear!’ This time we focus on an issue which might be just too big for one blog post but we’ll touch upon it at least.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken to online, who have been scared of going to the doctor’s because they feel they might be depressed. In the worst case scenario this is a young person, whose family doesn’t understand mental health issues.
“My parents told me that if I keep self-harming and talking about suicide, they’re going to take me to a hospital,” one person said.
First of all, it doesn’t work like that. Second of all, can you imagine any other illness scenario where going to hospital is considered a punishment?
“Right, that’s it! If that tumour on your forehead grows any bigger we’re taking you to the A&E and that’s that!”
Of course I know why. It’s because of shame. It’s this absolute horseshit about mental health issues being something shameful. One in four people experience them. It could happen to ABSOLUTELY ANYONE but still it’s somehow deeply shameful.
Let us digress for a memory that I have of sitting at the inner courtyard of the ward on a sunny afternoon. A new depressed lady had just arrived. We’ll call her Lucy.
“It would’ve been cheaper for the NHS just let me get run over by a train,” I said.
“That’s a horrible thing to say,” Lucy said, visibly shocked.
If depression was a game, surely you unlock a special level when another depressed person finds your thoughts too dark?
“It’s true though,” I replied. “But. Instead I’m getting specialised mental health treatment 24/7. All these highly educated people and their time. I’ve been here for months now, can’t imagine what this must cost. So you could argue that if I’ve been brought here, my life actually is worthy of this investment.”
Before you ended up in a loony bin, these days you’re lucky to get in.
I know I’m lucky. It’s almost unheard of to be able to spend three months at a hospital. Some people don’t seem to get admitted no matter what they do, and some people would do anything to get out.
I know it’s scary but at the same time it’s like hitting your head against a brick wall. At the end of the day there isn’t many options is there? Mental health issues aren’t exactly treatable with home remedies. If you’ve got an issue, you need to go to the doctor’s.
But I’m scared.
You don’t have to be scared. There’s nothing to be scared about.
But I am scared.
And so on and so on and so on. I’m happy to say that sometimes I have managed to get through to this person, usually by telling about my own experiences and assuring them that there’s nothing shameful about being ill, and they have made the appointment.
This is the point where I pray to any higher power there is that they happen to get a person who is a kind, caring and understanding of the unimaginable leap of faith that this fragile person is taking.
During this absolute shitstorm of a journey I’ve met some wonderful mental health professionals. I’ve also met some horrible ones.
My first contact with a GP was horrible (I’ve written about this gentleman in the post ‘What winds me up’), and now I understand that this one was much closer to reality to what most people have to endure.
This person didn’t tell me to come in. He prescribed me Antidepressant#1 over the phone and told me to come back a month later. A month. After I had told him I wanted to kill myself. This must come as a surprise to many but I tried to kill myself a couple of weeks after that.
GP#2 who I went to see after my suicide attempt was lovely. I told her I was cutting and that I had tried to kill myself, and she referred me to the local crisis team the same day. (Ironically GP#1 didn’t deem me worthy of this service.) And the crisis team were brilliant.
I have no clue why I’m still alive since my first contact with a GP was as unbelievably horrible as it was. And I have never been bothered about mental health. There is both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in my family. We’re very physically healthy, but in a lack of a better word, bonkers.
So even though it was hard to say the words ‘I want to kill myself’ to someone for the first time, this is nothing compared to someone who is already terrified getting help.
What I’m worried about is that one of those fragile, scared people ends up in the hands of a person who has little sensitivity and regard towards human life. People like that have blood on their hands, I’m sure of it. They just never get caught because, yeah.
Listen, I know that the system is overstretched. I have zero medical training and know nothing about the everyday pressures of making decisions regarding another human’s life. Still I think there is something fundamentally wrong with this system if people like GP#1 get to operate in it.
Yesterday I was reading about a service, which has been been invented to relief the pressure mental health services are under. Instead of going to the hospital, patients take part in an intense six-day training to learn to deal with their emotions themselves instead of seeking assurance from others. The patient can also return to the service. A finite amount of times.
I get what it’s trying to do. I can even see it helping some people. But I can’t shake this ‘Jesus Christ, please stop burdening our overstretched services!’ -vibe that I get out of it.
We have all these campaigns that say #endthestigma but one insensitive, overworked asshole can undo all of that in seconds.
And where does that leave a desperate person?
I’m sure that with every suicide someone like GP#1 breathes a secret sigh of relief while filling in the paperwork. This person isn’t going to be bothering anyone anymore. They won’t be queuing for services or asking for appointments, that are so sparsely available. This person won’t be causing expenses to the society ever again.
Is this honestly the reality of how things can be, on Lord’s year 2018, to one of the most common health conditions in the world?
No wonder they’re afraid.