Why Are We Still Waiting?

News, Opinion

When statistics were released this week, revealing that one in ten mental health patients are on a NHS waiting list for more than a year before they are assessed for treatment and one in six have attempted suicide while on the waiting list, it quite rightly made shocking headlines. The latest evidence of the mental health crisis, the latest betrayal by the NHS.

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Personally, I wasn’t shocked at all. I didn’t need a survey to tell me that patients can often wait over a year, with little to no medical contact. Nor, that in order to receive any sort of immediate help from the NHS the patient must be considered desperate – think attempted suicide and self-harm. I didn’t need the statistics to tell me all this because I have been experiencing it first hand for the last two years, when I initially gathered the courage to seek help for my own mental health.

When I was 17, after various trips to the doctor proved disappointing, a friend said to me, “You need to tell them you’re going to kill yourself or they just won’t do anything.”

As extreme and dispiriting as it sounds, this has turned out to be drastically true. During the sixth months I waited to be assessed and the further year before I was offered any form of treatment, I often felt the need to lie and exaggerate my symptoms at doctors appointments, in a desperate plea for help. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted them to do, I just wanted something to happen.

When I finally began assessment with the Community Mental Health Team I actually felt that the whole process was having a negative rather than positive effect. The lack of appointments was such that I didn’t see anyone on a regular basis and therefore never built up any of those trusting relationships I so often hear about. The Mental Health Nurse was supposed to be my support, someone who I could call at any time, but I didn’t feel that this was the case. Seeking help for a mental health issue is extremely difficult and took every inch of strength I had in me. I constantly felt like I was putting everything in and getting nothing back in return. When I actually did have appointments, I always left feeling despondent, wanting to give up.

I can think of only one way to describe the evidence and my own experience and that is, for want of a better word, depressing. I think of myself as lucky that I found the strength not to give up on life, but the bottom line is nobody should be left feeling this desperate, especially when they have reached out for help. Waiting lists can’t be avoided but patients shouldn’t be left feeling abandoned and even worse, as though they may as well of not sought help in the first place. Waiting until someone has attempted suicide before taking any action is just unfathomable. What is it they say? Prevention is better than cure?

Now my mind is much healthier and I can actually say that I am happy place, but I don’t put this down to the NHS. I put it down to finding ways to overcome battles on my own, including writing this blog. Just last month I finally received an appointment with a psychologist in the post, a year and a half after I first went to see a doctor. I laughed when I opened the letter.

 


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My Walk To Freedom, 2013

Features, Food, Opinion

As 2013 draws to a close, it wouldn’t be right not to finish the year with the obligatory reflective blog post.

For me, this year has been a significant one. I graduated from university, began a new relationship and began recovery from an eating disorder. As much as this year has perhaps been one of the most important and successful years of my life, it certainly hasn’t felt like that a lot of the time.

As proud of myself as I am that I finally sought help for my eating disorder, recovery isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t quick. Recovery is a lonely, confusing and scary place to be. Without the comfort blanket of the eating disorder for reliance, but still without a healthy attitude towards food, it is easy to relapse and even easier to beat yourself up when you do. That was my reasoning for setting up this blog. I wanted to reach out to others in recovery and talk about eating disorders.

This blog is perhaps my greatest achievement of the year. Speaking openly and publicly about eating disorders, is something, which 12 months ago was completely unfathomable to me, yet somehow, at the end of 2013 here I am, writing this post. It may not reach many readers and it may not be a national phenomenon, but to me this blog in a success in its own right. I still have that overwhelming sense of sickness and fear every time I hover doubtfully over the ‘post’ button, and I still worry constantly about how others will react to what I’ve written, and if I’m being really honest, what they will think of me and how they will judge me. Simply the fact that I am writing this blog means that I have spoken out and tried to make a difference, even if I haven’t managed to reach out to anyone else – which I sincerely hope that I have – I have definitely reached out to myself.

I will leave 2013, still worrying about how many calories I ate yesterday, but feeling proud and lucky. Proud, because I have achieved something I never thought possible, and lucky because I have began to overcome something which too many people do not. I will also leave thinking of those who haven’t been as lucky as I have and those who are still suffering and I urge them to have the courage to seek help.

2013 was the year I realised that I hadn’t failed at anorexia and bulimia, I had beaten them.

 

SARAH