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Mental health: My battle for the help I needed
I was told by my GP that I have severe depression and anxiety on 1 October 2015. Now I had a name for it. And suddenly whoosh, I joined the one in five that will at some stage of their life suffer from some form of depression.
What I have is the most common combination for mental health sufferers.
Two years ago, I was assaulted by a man who was being chased by the police. I landed with my full weight on my hip, resulting in the fracture of the neck of the femur. The ambulance didn't come so friends gave me a lift to Whipps Cross Hospital, east London.
I was there only earlier, protesting cuts and attacks on staff. I stayed for a week. I was on sick leave for about six months.
Suicidal thoughts developed during those six months, I was home and totally dependent on others to be washed, fed etc. I told someone and they said I should ring the Samaritans.
I never did. But as far as they were concerned they ticked the box of telling me about a phone service. When I returned to work things changed; but only temporarily.
I soon went back to often crying and waking up feeling angry at the person who attacked me. They never caught him and they never will by the sound of it.
I suppressed it. I had to worry about walking again and being able to function like I did before the injury. I can't. I went to the GP because of physical pains I was having and decided to talk about it. That time I was given a questionnaire.
I had to circle numbers, for example: 'From one to five how often do you think about killing yourself?' I was told I have severe depression.
Then I was told I was going to be referred to psychology services. They rang me more than three weeks after the diagnosis. According to the GP that's good!
They talk to you on the phone for 30 minutes and just ask you to give them numbers like the previous questionnaire.
After that they say they will ring you in two weeks at the latest. Again, it took them longer. When they did call they told me who my therapist was and what sort of therapy I'd get - in 12-14 weeks.
"But I've got worse since then, I can't go out of the house alone" I told them. I collapsed at a station and I was literally picked up from the floor by station staff. They replied: "We are not an emergency service, madam, but please talk to your GP or go to A&E."
In the meantime there are other services in my area. These are run by charities. Some use zero-hour contracts for some of their staff because of "the nature of mental health". Sometimes even these have no beds and enormous waiting lists to access any service they provide.
I understand that in some form or other charities get money from the state, therefore the taxpayers, us. It's an ideological problem of top down crumb giving.
This money should be given to the NHS. Charities, no matter how good their intentions and how people rely on them, should be replaced by properly staffed mental health services, publicly run and free for all through the NHS.
Charities are not accountable to society and might not be around forever. And our health isn't a matter of charity - it's our right to have free, public access to decent health services.
I never thought I would need mental health services. We never know what life will bring us. I speak up because of two reasons - firstly to show the faces behind the numbers and the statistics, the people behind the facts and figures.
And secondly, to highlight what cuts to these services are doing to us, how it's related to everything that is happening to the NHS and to wider austerity issues.
Despite mental health often being referred to as being a cross-class issue, it really isn't. This government has ministers like Iain Duncan-Smith who dares to claim that he personally can get by on £7 a day, at the same time claiming £39 for just one breakfast!
We have people leading some unions that don't give the fight that is needed both for their own members as well as wider society.
But working class people can see that austerity policies are killing people by pushing people with mental health problems into work because of 'fit to work' schemes and benefit sanctions!
And we will fight back.
7 Oct Tony Mulhearn 1939-2019
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