Let’s keep on keeping on

We’ve had a mini mega-burst of mental health media already this week.

Surely a self-confessed mental health campaigner like me ought to be pleased about all this increased profile? Actually I feel three things:

Frustration

I feel frustrated and very angry for my fellow patients and erstwhile colleagues because of the cuts in care, both statutory and voluntary, that have led to the only “safe” place for people who are very unwell being in hospital, and to every acute mental hospital bed being full. It is not only cruel for the patients, it is deeply counter-productive. The young woman with a personality disorder languishing in an acute ward in North London (whilst funders slowly cogitate whether she should get a more appropriate service) is deteriorating daily and her problems are becoming ever more intractable and corrosive. If she had cancer, people would be doing marathons and having cake sales to support her. As it is, millions of people like her are seen by society only for their deficits rather than the assets that may lie buried deeply but are undoubtedly there. Parity of esteem? We’re having a laugh.

Love and gratitude

I feel huge love and gratitude to brave people like Professor Green for dragging mental illness and the stigma of suicide kicking and screaming out of the shadows and into the sunshine. I was moved by so much in Suicide and Me , including the rawness and vulnerability of the rugby coach as he bared his psychological all about feelings of worthlessness and what he is learning to do to protect himself from suicidal thoughts.

Today, the day after the programme was shown, I have a regular Board meeting with Grassroots, the small but highly effective suicide prevention charity of which I am a trustee. I love my fellow trustees and the amazing people who work and volunteer for Grassroots. We know what Professor Green has discovered for himself: suicide thrives where there is secrecy and shame. One of my shameful secrets used to be all those times in my life when I faked physical illness because I couldn’t get out of bed for feeling so hopeless, helpless and full of self-hatred that I wanted to stop living. It’s still very hard to ask for help, but many times easier now that I’ve outed myself. Bringing these shameful secrets into the sunlight and talking about them is our greatest tool to keep ourselves safe and to live a full and beautiful life in recovery.

Responsibility

I listened to All in the Mind this morning on iPlayer as it clashed with Suicide and Me. I salute the wonderful Claudia Hammond for dedicating her first programme of this series to young people’s mental health. I’ve written before about my concern that there is a lalala-I’m-not-listening response to the considerable increase in demand for children and young people’s mental health services. The programme takes a forensic interest in trying to find the reasons for this rise. There are various theories, mainly societal and social, but no conclusive explanation that could be used to stem the demand.

For staff working in these services, there is great anxiety – that they will miss someone extremely vulnerable, that the treatment they are giving is not sufficient, that they are spreading care and themselves too thinly. The pressure can feel close to unbearable.

We should be indebted to those who speak up about the challenge of working in mental health these days, like those on All in the Mind and the staff and leaders at Barnet Enfield and Haringey Trust on Panorama. Their courage and compassion shine.

These programmes stir up triggering thoughts and feelings in those who are susceptible. Social media can be a great source of support,  but only if you are open, which also increases vulnerability. Twitter and Facebook have been very active this week.

I’ve had many thoughts myself. And I’ve come to a decision. I have more to give. I’m going to look for new ways to continue to tackle the stigma that affects not only those of us who experience mental illness, but also the availability and capacity of services to be able to tackle problems early with effectiveness and kindness. Watch this space.

And in the meantime, here’s to everyone who does what they need to do to keep on keeping on.

Go us xxx

 

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4 comments

  1. Similarly share your frustrations as if a similar report, showing deterioration of care/experience, of any physical condition had surfaced it would have made headline news but only interested people are even mildly aware of this one.

    I continue to be outraged by the fact that this society still tolerates very unwell people being put into police cells and said as much this week to Paul Farmer, Chair of MH task force, who is a member of the People and Communities board(FYFV) that I sit on as a patient advisor/expert by experience.

    This practice should be stopped overnight and the necessary resources put into place. I’m not blaming the police as I think they do a good job and indeed are the only public service who will do something which I think should shame the NHS but it doesn’t seem to?

    How many times do people who have suffered severe mental health issues have to tell their stories to get someone to listen and do something about it? i have some personal horrifying stories of my own and I’m one of the lucky ones who has so far managed to survive but like you have recurring depressions that don’t get any easier to live with.

    I love this blog as I think it is so balanced and clear.

    I’m keeping on too whenever I get an opportunity to have a voice in strategic places which is where commitment and resources need to be made and quickly!

    Like

  2. again and again we say it: if this were happening to heart attack or cancer patients, there would be action. Mental health gets a lot of lip service, but no teeth…this is obscene. Keep telling them, Lisa. Maybe someday they’ll listen.

    Like

  3. It is amazing how you’re using self knowledge in writing about sucide. It’s quite humbling to see you write in this way. Empathising with individuals and families affected with this. Quoting professor Green opening of this issue and you coming out with your own experience is timely.
    Mental health services are lacking in funding and still many people who are affected by this are often stigmatised.

    Lisa you’re a great champion, not only for Grass Roots, but for those who’s voice has been silenced by the system and insensitive people.

    Well done 😀☀️💘

    Like

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