Lack of Mental Health Funding is letting us down
Read about my recent GP appointment, the options that were given to me and why I feel let down by what is available to me.
Disclaimer: Views are my own. I mean no disrespect to any individual or medical professional mentioned in this article.
Visiting the Doctor
As I mentioned in my previous post "Mental Illness", I have recently re-visited the doctor to discuss my Anxiety Disorders.
The GP I saw was actually pretty great. I've been faced with some previous doctors who have either:
- Been far too quick to dish out meds
- Made me feel as though they were too busy to see me
- Said that all it takes is some some yoga/fresh air/meditation (all great self care techniques, but NOT sufficient or sustainable on their own)
- Insisted on blabbing on about depression for 5 years (which I DON'T HAVE)
- Been terrible at talking about mental illness
But the doctor that I saw last week made me feel like an actual human being. Fantastic.
We had a two-way decent and open conversation about the diagnoses I already had, we talked about the symptoms I was experiencing and the self care techniques that I was trying. He acknowledged, without prompting, that although a lot of self care works, mental illness itself makes a lot of the practices difficult to commit to. I even talked a little about this blog, which he approved of.
After establishing that I definitely need some help right now (he seemed shocked at how little I'd already had, particularly with the PTSD), we started discussing my options.
First, we talked around the different kinds of medication available. I mentioned the Beta Blockers that I'd been previously prescribed, he pretty much dismissed them by telling me that although they can stem some of the adrenaline associated with anxiety, they wouldn't do anything for the thoughts that accompany it - and were an ineffective long term solution. Despite being popular 10-15 years ago, most doctors wouldn't recommend Beta Blockers for anxiety anymore.
Beta Blockers were the ONLY thing given to me along with my initial diagnosis of C-PTSD (and the recommendation of yoga), so it was pretty annoying to find out that they probably weren't making a difference - especially because taking them makes me so goddamn anxious.
We then discussed anti depressants, something I'd been offered MANY times by MANY different doctors. Again, he said, mostly ineffective for anxiety - very effective for treating depression - but virtually no evidence it would be particularly helpful for me. Brilliant.
Out of medication options (short of guinea-pigging myself into something the doctor didn't think was right) we were left with:
I breathed a sigh of relief, I instinctively knew that what I needed was a therapist. I had been paying a wonderful counsellor, who I can no longer afford, and it did seem to be working at the time.
The doctor agreed that talk therapy, specifically one on one counselling sounded absolutely right for me.
Brilliant! Where do I sign up?
But of course, there's a catch
There are very few options available on the NHS for talk therapy, these days. Our government has pulled a lot of the funding in the name of austerity and the doctor is now unable to simply get me a counselling session.
OK. Fine. So what do I do?
Some of you may have heard of IAPT (Improved Access to Psychological Therapies), my doctor said that the absolute quickest way to see someone would be to refer myself to their service. I can do this online or over the phone. In the meantime, there are also self-help guides on their website and there are courses I can do online that should give me something to focus on. The waiting list is 3-4 weeks.
The doctor insists on seeing me in 4 weeks for a follow up, he's concerned and wants to see how I'm doing. He also suggests some online resources to help with the OCD symptoms I'm experiencing. I book in my next appointment and I go on my way.
I spent an hour with him in total, I think he must have had a lot of cancellations due to the snow. I came out of that room understanding that he was concerned about me, and that he wanted to see my health improved. I felt cared for during my appointment.
I acknowledge wholly that the lack of resources and funding are NOT his fault but...
What other fucking illness could I be diagnosed with and left to self-refer/ go private/fend for myself??!?!?!?!
I'm trying to be rational and reasonable about this, but it's becoming harder and harder every day.
It has been over a year since I was diagnosed with PTSD - and this is the first doctor I've had who has even bothered to book in a follow up appointment then and there.
But really... how serious does the Mental Health problem have to get in the UK for there to be some real help?!
The help available to me
So, like I said, I do have some options. Some of the options available to me might even be helpful.
I'm really hoping that I get matched with someone quickly for some one-on-one talk therapy, because honestly - I'm trying to stay afloat here, but I can feel the waves getting bigger and the current getting stronger and I am getting so fed up and tired.
I've found myself in tears several times over the last week, the only things that I can really focus on are my blog and my dog. It probably doesn't help that it's my birthday and it's definitely exacerbated by the terrible news I got last Thursday.
The day after my doctor's appointment I got a phone call from my aunt to tell me that one of my relatives had passed away.
They had some mental health problems that I won't go into, as it isn't my story to tell and wouldn't be fair on the rest of my family. It would seem that they just stopped being able to take care of themselves anymore and died of hypothermia. That's the second time someone in my family has died young in those circumstances.
While I didn't know this person very well, it's really shaken me - because it just seems like such a waste.
As with my mum, it was very obvious that this person needed some help and intervention, and their family did what they could to provide that help - but it shouldn't be up to family and friends to do all the work. Of course it's positive when people want to help and facilitate someone's recovery, but that should come secondary to the primary care, which IMO should always be:
properly organised and easily accessible professional medical help.
This can't be ignored and branded an issue "to be discussed" anymore. It just can't.
1 in 4 of us here in the UK will suffer from mental illness during our lifetimes.
One quarter of us. 25% of us. - I know you probably know how maths work, but how can that many of us be living with illnesses that are mostly left untreated?!
Mental Illness needs more attention and greater priority than ever.
It's so important to talk
Whether you're sharing with a stranger, good friend or totally anonymously, it feels good to talk.
Telling someone your experiences, might help them feel less alone.
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