This post may be triggering for some people. There is talk of suicide and mental illness in general.
The theme for 2015’s world mental health day is ‘dignity in mental health,’ and that may be something that makes you think of people in far flung places with little to no access to support for their illness, but you can look closer to home.
I was first diagnosed with mental illness when I lived in the UK, most people would think that makes me lucky; a first world country, free healthcare, surely I would be well supported, maybe even cured, in no time, but that’s not what happened. When I was a child, even a teen, I did get some help, I got some sessions of counselling to help me deal with the bullying I’d experienced and the loss of my Gran and Dad. The CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) team were pretty good but I don’t think the extent of my illness was understood at that point.
Fast forward to my experiences as an adult; my GP was excellent. He was so supportive, understanding and generally amazing, I cannot fault him. He had me do that, essentially pointless, anxiety/depression ‘test’ form to see if I needed help, and he got me in to see a psychiatrist. He supported me the whole way, right up until I left the UK, and I am forever grateful for his help and care, I know I was lucky to have such an amazing GP.
My first psychiatrist appointment was long, an assessment, with either a newly qualified or still in training psychiatrist, he did tell me which he was but it was a while ago. Anyway, he asked me to go through my life, my feelings, asked questions, etc, and he wrote, a lot. I guess I was lulled into a false sense of security by that appointment; I thought that they would all be similar, I thought I would always be listened to. After that appointment the psych who made all the notes spoke to the fully qualified, head psych and they decided I had depression, unbeknownst to me they also decided I had borderline. I never remember seeing the guy who made all the notes again, I do remember being seen for a maximum of 5 minutes by a different psychiatrist every time I went, to be asked variations on “are you OK today?” and told to continue taking my medication.
There was no dignity in my treatment by those psychiatrists. They didn’t care, they weren’t interested, I was just another file to them, not a human being.
And sadly the same was true of the people I met during my A&E admissions for suicide attempts and after a psychotic episode. I felt like a nuisance, I was made to feel that I was taking up bed space, wasting their time. I already wanted to die, to be made to feel that way was not, in my opinion, a wise move. Had I been alone after being discharged, I would have tried again, not just because of their treatment of me, but because there was no after care. They ‘fixed’ me at the time, in the sense that they made sure my body was clean of the overdoses, but they didn’t ensure my mental health was better before discharging. Once, of the 3, maybe 4 times I was admitted I was seen by two mental health professionals before discharge. The only thing they cared about was if I was going to try to commit suicide again, I told them no, because I wanted to die, I didn’t want anyone to stop me, and that was all they wanted to hear.
the state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect
I did not feel worthy of honour or respect, not by the people who treated me after my GP referred me. That was 5 years ago now, more at the start of my story, maybe things have changed, but from what I see in my Twitter feed it seems they haven’t.
Dignity in mental health needs to start with the professionals, in my opinion. I know many are overstretched now, working too many hours for too little pay, but it is so important to be treated with respect, it builds self esteem, something that many mentally ill people struggle with, and it is something we deserve. We are all human beings, ill or not, and we should be treated as such.
This is the face of mental illness, and I deserve to be treated with dignity.