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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New Statistics, Still No Closer to the Truth

Food, News

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As concerning as it is, it always restores a little faith in me to see eating disorders being talked about and addressed nationally in the press, as I fear coverage of these issues is getting dangerously thin on the ground. This is until I read further and discover just a bunch of more empty figures and lack of solution. Perhaps this is why, after reading such news reports, I find myself charged with conflicting emotions and opinions, but all eventually pointing to the same thing, despair.

The fact that the number of eating disorder hospital admissions has increased by 8 per cent, for me, can be seen in a number of different ways. The thing that automatically springs to mind is that this is a negative, although unsurprising outcome, but on reading into it I came to the conclusion that this is actually, a pointless statistic.

For one thing, those 2,560 admissions do not take into account those who are treated as out-patients, as the majority are, and even more importantly, the many people who suffer from eating disorders and do not seek help or receive treatment at all. For me, the truth and the real seriousness of the problem lies with the unknown numbers and this is where our attention should be focused.

Though the rise in admissions could be seen as a positive thing, the fact that more people are seeking help could mean that awareness of the seriousness of eating disorders and the treatment available has increased, this is only, in my opinion, a weak possibility. As much as I would hope this to be the case, the truth is much more likely to be sinister, simply more people are suffering.

However, aside from lacking veracity, this collection of data did uncover some very important points. It won’t shock anyone to hear that nine times as many females as males were admitted from 2012 -2013, the most common age of admission for girls was 15, age 13 for boys, but there were children aged five to nine, and even, distressingly, under fives admitted. (I found it particularly interesting – and a bit strange – that The BBC failed to put this last part in their report.) The age of admissions is a shocking statistic which anyone would hope will spur on some serious action to be taken, children under five suffering from these illnesses is something which I and most of society cannot and should not be able to comprehend.

Although the 2,560 people admitted may be the most severely ill, they are receiving the help they need, and this does not provide an accurate reflection of the problem. What about the rest of the story? What about those who are suffering in silence and living in denial? The truth is, eating disorders take many forms, in many people, of many different ages and the scale of this suffering can never be truly expressed in the form of a government statistic. It is real, it is boundless and it needs to be addressed.