It comes as no surprise to anyone who has suffered a mental health issue and attempted to seek help for it, especially in the last decade, that the attitudes of some of the individuals within that system, only serve to hinder your progress, belittle your illness and even at times threaten you.
Yet we are supposed to be grateful that we have services at all, right?
But… I should not have to feel grateful that there are services there, that have my name on their system but still jilt any attempted contact, or are so abundant of any real help or understanding that they only mimic already stigmatising views in society. Why should any of us feel grateful for services that perpetuate stigma, aid in the deterioration of people’s health and well being, and consistently let us down, while simultaneously being a system that is supposed to embody the understanding, empathetic and respectful nature of treating mental illnesses.
Now I am well aware various cuts instigated by the current government have contributed to the mental health system being stretched and cut and much more… but, that doesn’t speak for those people who still work in the mental health system and still enact a bias, stigmatised and offensive view of certain mental health issues. That, and some often lack the basic knowledge surrounding mental health. I am in no way saying that every mental health professional falls within this bracket, I am sure there are many redeemable figures out there that actually do some good. But I am talking from a personal perspective, one from my own experiences as well as those of some people close to me. I am speaking in aid of myself and them, in reference majoritively to mental health care in Devon. With particular attention to: The Quay in Tavistock and Sherborne House in Newton Abbot.
The mental health charity Mind conducted a report in 2012 about attitudes towards mental illness throughout various subheadings.
When it came to the figures surrounding understanding and tolerance of mental illness, they found:
“Since 1994 the proportion of respondents expressing more tolerant opinions on several of these statements has decreased. The proportion of people agreeing that ‘increased spending on mental health services is a waste of money’, and that ‘people with mental illness don’t deserve our sympathy’ increased. Similarly, the percentage agreeing that ‘We need to adopt a far more tolerant attitude toward people with mental illness in our society’ fell from 92% to 88%”
These findings go to show how attitudes are constantly changing, this also brings into question the current problems people all over the country are facing; that mental illness is not respected, understood or treated with any true compassion, and this is what leads to so many important things breaking down, people not accessing care or feeling as though they cannot access care from various avenues.
As a person who has been navigating the mental health system for a few years now, I am not unfamiliar with the attitudes of some of the people within this system and its failings.
So from that I will try to briefly explain my encounters and experiences with the system in an effort to show people the truth behind a system that should be there to help just as much as any other system should be in place to help with people’s health, of any kind.
I have had problems with my mental health ever since I was 4 years old. It was only when I turned 21 that I began to try and seek treatment as things had suddenly taken a turn for the worse. I was at university studying Creative Writing when things started to take their toll, I found myself attending lessons less and less because I was suffering severe paranoia, did not really get along with the people in my class (mostly women) and even the lecturers made it clear that I just didn’t ‘fit’ there. I had told my tutors about the worries with my mental health, to no avail. They never responded to any emails I sent to them about it at all. I still kept up with my coursework as any other student. And managed to maintain a grade boundary that was often on par with the students that did attend daily. I was given no course material, and used the internet for most of my research. As this carried on I started to notice a definitive change in tone in my returned marks. Despite the work quality being just the same as students who had the material, I was getting marked down purposely and had notes on my papers reading “maybe if you bothered to turn up to classes, your grades wouldn’t be suffering”
This was a lecturer that knew I was struggling with my mental health. I spoke to my doctor about it eventually and they agreed the best course of action was for me to withdraw. Upon having the meeting with the people at my university to discuss this the woman said
“Well, when do you expect to be well again?”
As if mental health or any type of long term health complaint has a time limit to it. I made my choice long before, as soon as I got the mark back for my paper with a personalized ignorant opinion on the bottom of it as I have explained above.
I did not know this then but that was part of my illnesses.
It is notoriously difficult to hold on to education or work with this disorder because my issues/triggers lie with society, hierarchies and equality. Essentially I was down graded on my papers because they couldn’t possibly give me a good grade for something that they had no involvement with, right? I mean, how good would that look for them? Not so great I imagine, when the majority of students start to realise they can still get top graded marks without needing to listen to someone talk for four hours straight. That you have the self patience to actually teach yourself rather than to be taught. Capitalism doesn’t like that you can think for yourself, or gain access to means of free education (the internet). Which is why you get thrown into a life of debt, because you have been taught that the only way of improving your intelligence is if someone who already has that piece of paper can teach those things to you. It all comes down to that piece of paper. You aren’t paying for an education as much as you’re paying for that. And if you can teach yourself all of that and/or more through other means, it does not mean that it’s not as worthy or important. You can do as much as a person with that piece of paper, it’s just the government, business, society, that will tell you otherwise.
Anyway, after withdrawing from university my doctor gave me one of those leaflets to help seek treatment for depression and anxiety. I was put through to have an initial assessment done at Sherborne House in Newton Abbot. This was my first real encounter with anyone in the mental health profession and honestly, it was beyond appalling.
I was taken to this egg-washed walled, tiny little box room that housed a table and two of those old school chairs. The guy started talking and talking, basically filling in blanks about my life, not even letting me speak for myself but just cutting me off and making bold assumptions about my thoughts and feelings and even experiences, directly to my face.
He took personal offence when I answered his question about religion (which should have had absolutely no place in that discussion)
Not only was his face to face demenour poor but his report, which was sent to my GP and myself, was beyond ridiculous.
This was a double page report, that had details of my life all wrong, ages were wrong, names were wrong as well as other important information such as where I lived and important information regarding other people in my life. He had concluded that basically ‘nothing was wrong’ and that my problems would be fixed with a “steady income”
I was then referred to the Quay in Tavistock because Sherborne house had concluded that because they only really specalise in Depression and Anxiety, that I didn’t qualify for treatment with them, but I had still not been given a diagnosis.
I was displaying severe paranoid tendencies, violent ideations and extreme anger and impulsiveness, drug abuse and a multitude of other things, yet he still concluded that nothing was really wrong and my problems would be fixed with money.
I met with a clinical psychotherapist at The Quay once, and he literally handed me a print out from the Mind charity website about Borderline Personality Disorder, told me to go away and read it and see what I think of it. And prescribed me a pretty hefty anti-psychotic which I have never taken, and set me up with some sleeping pills (but refrained to tell me not to take them for more than two days in a row, leading to making me incredibly unwell) and sent me on my way. I never heard a thing from him again.
I was then left in the dark for about 7 months or more. I had a letter telling me If i wanted to continue to seek therapy to fill in this form and return it but it could take another 4 months just for a reply.
Eventually I was given another appointment at The Quay to see a clinical psychologist who assessed me over the course of 4 or 5 appointments, this is when I was given a secondary diagnosis of displaying strong ASPD tendancies. But it was also when I got this diagnosis that their attitudes began to get worse, and from where, the point in this article takes flight.
The psychologist I saw wanted to put me into the Tavistock Mental Health team, which meant I would be in their system so would be able to have access to my own CPN and other forms of help apparently.
I received a phone call from her a few days after discussing doing this, and she informed me that upon speaking to the team in Tavistock that they would have to inform the People Protection Unit, to see if they would even allow me to be put on their list of patients. (I must add, I was never admitted to therapy through police intervention or the court, it was purely off my own back and via my gp. Nor have I ever had any criminal convictions or etc) For them to treat any patient who hasn’t been involved in criminal activity, as if they are a criminal due to the diagnosis they have given you, is beyond abhorrent. And in it’s simplest of terms, is pure stigma and discrimination. So now, my name sits on a list for the police to watch whenever necessary, and their justification for this was that IF anything DID happen, the police would be able to get to me quicker to help. BUT they have also told me more frequently than anything else, that any violent behaviour within their walls is cause for police intervention, and in my case it will NOT be treated as a mental health issue, only and solely a criminal one. Now you tell me if that is in any way fair under the pretenses?
Now, with specific attention to Tavistock Mental Health team, and The Quay, this section is dedicated to explaining how they have constantly proven themselves to be the most offensive, unhelpful, unintelligent mental health teams I have heard about, read about, and unfortunately been at the receiving end of. And I am aware that writing this here may not make the biggest of differences, but this is for my own piece of mind and to show people the truth, but that isn’t as far as I will take it. This particular case is going to any media outlet that will be interested enough to publish it, that includes my local newspapers. I am un-endingly serious when I say something needs to change in respect to how mental health patients are treated, not only in my own hometown but all across the UK.
Last year they set me up to do Art Therapy, but it wasn’t in my hometown and at the time, having to take public transport for over an hour, e.g. a bus and train etc, was too much for me. Not only was I danger to myself but I was tenfold the danger to anyone else. I attended a few appointments but they were always first thing in the morning, meaning if I wasn’t staying in the area I had the therapy in, I just wouldn’t be able to get there that early. And it wasn’t cheap to travel that way, and I wasn’t able to rely on lifts every week. I had tried to discuss this with my therapist but she seemed to only believe that my mental health existed inside her four walls. So, typically, I began to grow more and more impatient and less and less tolerable of her. I think that became clearest when I was at an appointment with her and she wanted me to sit there in complete silence and just draw, I wasn’t even allowed to just look around the room. And I definitely couldn’t ask her anything.
“So, do you like art yourself?” I asked her. She bluntly and almost with a sense of betterness about her tone of voice told me that she wasn’t going to tell me that as the session has nothing to do with her.
And there I am thinking, you expect me to lay all my cards on the table, tell you the hardest things that have happened to me and much more but I can’t even ask you if you fucking LIKE the career role you have?! Respect, gone.
She belittled the disorder almost as if to say they she thought it wasn’t a real illness or that I was just using it as an excuse.
Not only that, but I was constantly threatened every time I raised my voice when talking about something that made me angry. Despite me saying and still standing by the ideal that an emotional response to something does not in any way always equate malicious intent. They consistently ignore that fact, and when you are dealing with people’s mental health, that fact CANNOT be ignored, especially when it comes to treatment!
She cut off my therapy when I missed a few sessions because it just wasn’t safe for me to travel all that way on my own. She flat out refused to acknowledge those facts.
It was at this point that I had also been assigned a CPN from The Quay. I met this woman once, and she the entire time played out this laughy, belittling tone of voice, asked me what my diagnosis was and when I told her about the BPD she literally replied with in a joking, brushed off sort of tone, “Oh well, everyone has BPD really don’t they!? Ha Ha!”
I went on to tell her I struggled a lot with anger and violent impulses, and curbing the impulse to do these things is getting harder and harder. She just laughed and went “Well what makes you so angry!?” like an adult talking down to a child. Like there was no reason for me to be angry at all.
I then told her about the Aspd tendancies, and her tone changed significantly. She went quiet and reserved. And then some other woman barged into the room mid interview acting entitled as hell and just stood in the doorway making it ten times more awkward. Talk about professionalism!
The CPN told me she was going to email me some helpful resources. I left that room having to squeeze my way past the woman that barged into the room as she refused to leave the doorway, along with about three other patients sat just outside waiting to be seen, all looking at me bewildered and confused.
I then proceeded to go weeks without hearing from her at all. Now I knew the behaviour that I was subject to was below par for anyone navigating the mental health system; but, in this specific case, I have never once been at the hands of a “professional” who has failed so completely within their role. And I say this because she was not only just my CPN but others’ that I knew, too, who told me how below standard she was performing.
So, the role of the CPN (Community psychiatric nurse) is or SHOULD BE:
A CPN sees people who are living in the community. This is most often in the person’s own home but it can also be in clinics based, for example, in a GP’s surgery.
CPNs provide support to people through difficult periods of their illness. They may also see patients who are currently well to check everything is going okay and be the first point of contact if the patient starts becoming unwell again.
A CPN will help patients with their medication and make sure that the patient understands what they should be taking and when.
Because CPNs see patients in their own homes, they also play a valuable role in helping the patient’s family and carers understand and cope with the illness.
Patients may be referred to CPNs from a number of sources including GPs, psychiatrists and inpatient wards so that the CPN can help the patient’s transition from hospital back into the community.
CPNs are often a patient’s keyworker.
A community psychiatric nurse (CPN) is a fully trained staff or charge nurse who has had several years of experience working on psychiatric wards in hospitals.
Every patient referred to the mental health services is allocated a keyworker.
The keyworker may be any member of the community mental health team (such as a psychiatrist, CPN, occupational therapist, psychologist or social worker).
The role of the keyworker is to act as the co-ordinator of the mental health services needed by their patients. The keyworker has a responsibility to regularly review the progress of their patients and assess if all of their needs are being addressed. This involves gaining feedback from the patients about what they think about the help and support they are getting from the mental health team.
By means of all these criteria, I can quite openly say that my personal CPN fulfilled none of these roles to the standard that is even remotely acceptable.
I was provided with no contact details for her, and as her role supposedly being first port of call when patients feel they’re in crisis, or need help in the community or getting back into day to day life, it is safe to say she failed. Even patients who did have her contact details, found she rarely answered her phone.
I received one letter from her, weeks after my initial appointment, that letter simply gave me links to the mind website, something which most people with mental illnesses will already be over familiar with, and find that simply, it doesn’t much help. I was schedule to meet with her a month later, yet she knew I was in crisis when we met, and had done nothing in between.
I ended up calling her the day I had to go and meet her, which again meant travelling quite substantially, and being in crisis and having to try and make myself accept going there was best for me, was just simply impossible. So when I called her, I can’t quite remember what I said, I was angry, upset, but I do remember calling her out on her position and how she could possibly justify it. I never heard from her again. I was told by my art therapist who I was still seeing at the time, that the two of them had spoke about me, but not really to my knowledge; and then I got a call from her saying that my CMHT wanted to meet with me, my therapist said in these words “I have to warn you that they are making the appointment to see you to discuss your behaviour with your CPN”
And from this, this is where I started to daily question the attitudes inside the mental health system, because for years people have suffered at societies ignorant and uneducated views on mental health, feeling that to be one of the main reasons we cannot access treatment. But it isn’t only that, not anymore. Attitudes towards mental health within society are very slowly beginning to become more accepted. That dynamic however, doesn’t feel or seem to have changed much at all when it comes to the people inside of the system.
I have told briefly, my story of involvement with the mental health team I am with. Since those happenings, I had not heard from them for over 5 months. My therapy was stopped, CPN dropped and not sorted out a new one, had no written letters or emails, and no phonecalls at all. Not even my GP has bothered.
In the last 3 weeks I have been trying to get in contact with The Quay because I feel this issue has gone on for too long. I had a friend call them when I was in crisis quite badly a few weeks ago, upon which the person on the phone was increasingly unhelpful, offensive and extremely judgmental.
How you ask?
When someone calls up on behalf of you, you do not and they do not and definitely should not, have to be subjected to the person on the phone asking if you are currently receiving any mental health help. Someone they don’t know, who is simply calling up on behalf of one of their patients and because they cannot understand how to treat or deal with that illness, make it personal. Make it somehow like it’s a choice for the sufferer, in which case: me. And offensively ask a friend of mine if they need help. To make an assumption just because that person’s friend has a mental health disorder, does not in any way give you the right to make an assumption that big without knowing or having anything to do with that person. Not only is if offensive on their behalf but it is offensive on behalf of the person they are calling up for, because it assumes to the patient that just because they are mentally unwell, anyone who must have long term contact with them must somehow be at risk? As if its somehow contagious or something.
I am aware that the dynamic of mental health within relationships is difficult, but again, that is a personal matter, one of which has nothing to do with a mental health coordinator over the phone.
Not only is this type of behaviour something I have seen countless times within that specific team but it seems to be something they think is completely right. I have continued to feel as though no matter what issue I have with that practice, it won’t matter because they see me as “dangerous, crazy, insane” and no, i’m really not being over dramatic, but when all you have faced while trying to actually make yourself well again is more judgmental bullshit and a constant feeling of ‘they are just waiting for an excuse to roll me off to the police’, it becomes incredibly difficult with ASPD, to believe that anything they are doing is for the benefit of your health at all. If anything it seems to be at the benefit of securing their own ignorance towards mental health in general. Because I will continue to say that AN EMOTIONAL REACTION DOES NOT ALWAYS EQUATE TO MALICIOUS INTENT. And while they may come back at that with ‘we need to be careful and take precautions’. I will always return that with, and people like us would simply like respect and trust, not a guideline to follow or a construct to fit into because let me tell you something, mental illness does not fit into any construct. It creates it’s own, and that is why it is different for every single person out there. So honestly, the amount of prejudice surrounding the two disorders I have equate then to me not being able to access or feel ALLOWED to have help? Because of their small minded inability to understand this diagnosis other than what DSM tells them.
I called up the team again recently because I wanted an appointment to speak to someone face to face about all of this, apparently, as usual, the people dealing with my case weren’t there. The woman was rude, blunt and cold and would have known she was speaking to a patient. A patient that was upset and angry at the attitude she was on the receiving end of, and having heard her tell me they couldn’t fit me in until the end of April, I had to remind her how that could possibly be right? Considering I had a text from them the week before telling me that in two hours time I had an appointment (one of which I was never told about until that text and wasn’t at home, so wouldn’t have been able to make it to that appointment anyway, but if they had actually conversed with me like they should have this could have been avoided, instead I have to rearrange that appointment)
She wasn’t having any of it, so I asked to speak to a manager, and she flat out refused in a childish manner, I replied laughingly, and said the word “fucking” within the next sentence. Which was “Fine, well let me fucking talk to someone else then”
She hangs up. Full stop.
To anyone that wasn’t me, that was also in crisis (because my in crisis differs hugely from others’) there may be a huge chance upon being hung up on and spoken to like that just because you’re upset and simply just desperate to get some help after so long in neglect, that could be the last phone call someone else ever took. And that would be on their hands. And frankly, I’m pretty sure deaths have occurred because of this ignorant behaviour on part of mental health “professionals”
I don’t call them professional if that is how they act. I am aware that all places don’t take violence to their staff, but a swear word doesn’t say ‘I’m going to hurt you’ if anything, in that specific case, it would mean the person is emotional, and in a mental health sense, emotional instability can often lead to some pretty horrendous outcomes, and more over they should understand some people may be unstable, especially if they have had such inconsistent correspondence with their treatment.
This phone call happened at the end of the week.
Come Monday morning I received this in the post:
Now if THEY are allowed to take ONE WORD that far out of context, and THEY are allowed to send a threatening complaint like this one, WHY AM I NOT ALLOWED THE SAME COURTESY? Directly, I mean. Because, PALS won’t do a thing, I’ve tried. They are there to help. yes? yes. So when they have purposely neglected their patients, their roles, and so much more, regardless of whether this is a ‘system’ letter is irrelevant, it’s clearly not by having personal assumptions written at the bottom, but if they can see that the REASON for ONE SWEAR WORD is a result of someone literally at the end of their rope with a system that has done nothing but let them down, make them feel criminalized and so on, this just serves as a clear sentiment of how they DO NOT understand, or are there to help, because if they think me saying one word, which wasn’t even aimed at anyone, is enough to cause reason for a message like this? So quickly as well, they can send me a threatening letter in under a week but for an appointment to speak to someone even over the phone when in crisis, they can’t set up full stop? Well, something isn’t right there is it.
Quote: “this does not excuse my behaviour or give me the right to act this way” So literally, I HAVE NO RIGHT to voice any opinion on MY quality of care, or THEIR approach or sheer negligence to it?
I do not fucking think so. If there is anything like a red flag for an ASPD, this is a prime example and while writing this it is increasingly difficult to maintain an emotional distance, because honestly, I take it personally. And why shouldn’t I?
And frankly, its within my own right that I have put this up here, I could have just written it down and posted it here but people need to see the reality of the situation. I could understand a letter such as this one if I was face to face with someone and made it very clear that I wanted to harm them, I could even understand if I was on the phone and said something direct. But the issue is, no threat was made. I only wanted to speak to someone properly, helpfully, professionally about my care. I cannot help that I got wound up, after 5 months being in crisis, every single day, whilst they purposely ignore you for months even though you’re calling them daily, telling them you’re in crisis, and they respond with “oh, so and so is on holiday, they will call when they’re back”
Three weeks later, call again, “oh yes, she’s in a meeting, she will call you back after”
6 weeks later, still nothing. It’s becoming increasingly more and more appalling and I will not stand for it any longer.
It took me saying one word, one fucking word for them to write that up and send it straight away. But when i’m in crisis for over 5 months, trying to contact them, because i’m already part of the team, there is no need for lengthy waiting periods, they just completely neglect it. So if they are doing that to me, what on earth are they doing to others?
Basically it’s okay for me and thousands of other people out there to go completely neglected by these services for months, but as soon as we have an emotional reaction and snap slightly, and they believe their wellbeing is at risk, they take immediate measures, but clearly do not incorporate the same measures for any of their patients, who more over are categorized as unstable, while they on the other hand, are supposed to be ‘mentally well’? Where is the equality there?
(I mentioned being in crisis a lot in this post, I will mention that in these time periods I have also tried to make contact with Crisis Teams, outside of Tavistock. One of which hung up on me and told me that ‘anger wasn’t really an issue’ again, a huge understatement for someone with two personality disorders, anger being the main dysfunction I have. After those dealing with the crisis teams, I called my GP, (the one half decent one I have had in my life, who no longer works at my surgery unfortunately) he then called that crisis team back, tried his best to get through to them but they just wouldn’t listen. It was the first time in my life I had ever received a call from my GP sincerely apologizing on behalf of the crisis team, he told me he was ever so sorry and that he did his best, that they wouldn’t phone me back or send someone out despite the state I was in, and that they would send me a letter, that letter to this day still hasn’t arrived)
Upon getting the letter in the photo above, I made a call to my GP and told them how I was struggling to get through to the Mental Health Team and he said he would try phone them that day or first thing on Monday, and would call me back as soon as he spoke to them. I have again, heard absolutely nothing.
I have taken my mental health into my own hands, I always have had to. My disorders are mine, and while I will be in crisis at least once a week, I will always be there to attempt to pick up my own pieces, but for those people who can’t do that with their illnesses, (i’m thankful, I couldn’t be this without my ASPD, if I just had my BPD I think all these situations would have affected me in quite the opposite way, if I’m completely honest, I would not be here.) and would really feel community help would do some good for them, how is it fair that this treatment is always a possibility for them?
So how is accessing care in this area at all easy? It isn’t, that is as honest as I can be.
I have helped myself in a thousand different ways, more so than those “professionals” have or likely ever will. And it is my personal mission for The Quay to change their ways, because if they don’t change any time soon, more and more people are going to suffer.
Having any mental health condition means instability of some kind, at some point, if they make NO allowances for that then NOBODY will ever get better will they?
So it’s all well and good them going to those extremes to try and ‘protect’ their staff but that policy also includes duty to PROTECT your patients. And your reactions to emotional outbursts and pleas of fucking help, not only are they incredibly disrespectful, but they are insulting, they are misguided and ignorant and pig headed and hinder your patients feeling able or allowed to ask for help or discuss issues within their care. You should never have been given the privilege to work in a role with so many unique and dynamic people if all you do is strive to fit them into a fucking box. Mental health does not have a one dose fixes all method and they of ALL people should understand that at least. But they don’t. Simply, if you do not respect mental health, people with mental health disorders, or even pick and choose the disorders or illnesses you like and dislike you don’t deserve to be in the role because every patient, whether suffering from depression of psychopathy should be treated with the same level of respect, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO THEIR TREATMENT. Because your neglect, I can promise you, as mental health professionals, that neglect will only serve one purpose, and that purpose is worsening the illnesses, and worsening the illness means more of a chance of you people just having to sit there day in day out writing these bullshit letters, that do nothing but try to enact a fear mongering reaction.
The tone of that letter, it’s content alone, serves to make anyone feel inferior. But to an ASPD sufferer, that is like a red flag, it feels like you’re being pushed.
See, if they truly respected or understood my illness, they would understand sending a letter such as that with the prospect of punishment if the fictitious behaviour continues, will do absolutely NOTHING to deter me or my feelings, if anything they exacerbate them. This is exactly my point about their lack of knowledge around their profession.
“The posterior cingulate cortex is a part of the brain associated with tracking changes in reward and punishment; it helps signal “the need to adapt behaviour,” the researchers write. The anterior insula “is involved in motivation and … reward[ing] and track[ing] the salience of outcomes, including recognition of errors.” Damage to it has been correlated with increases in risky behavior. What all of this adds up to is increased evidence that psychopathy does affect people’s ability to adapt their behavior and respond to reward and punishment, particularly when it comes to newly introduced punishments of behavior that had been rewarded in the past (the usual caveats about lab behavior versus real-world behavior do apply, of course).”
My points are further backed up by reports such as these: (just in case anyone thinks I’m just being dramatic)
The article makes some devastating but extremely true points:
“Widespread failings in the NHS’s response to such patients “result in the most vulnerable people in society being abandoned at a time of crisis”, said the CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals Dr Paul Lelliott.
The behaviour of emergency department staff in particular is “quite shocking”, as they should know much better, added Lelliott..
While some parts of England treat people experiencing a crisis well, “far too many people in crisis have poor experiences due to service responses that fail to meet their needs and lack basic respect, warmth and compassion. This is unsafe, unfair and completely unacceptable,” an inquiry by a CQC team concluded.”
It also goes on to say:
“Although the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence introduced guidelines for treating people who have self-harmed a decade ago, “many services are still failing to provide a caring, empathetic response when presented with a person who may have harmed themselves””
To me, this is not only a failing of basic training, but it is a failing on part of the individual, it is an individual choice to be compassionate, and given a role such as a mental health worker – that essentially comes with the job description. If mental health isn’t going to be treated as equally as physical health, and believe me, whether your mental state effects your physical one because of a mental disorder or not, is irrelevant, if you are unwell – their job is to help you get better, they wouldn’t judge you for having cancer, for breaking down in front of them about it, so why is it okay for them to hand out the unfair judgement for those of us who are in pain physically and mentally because of a mental illness. It is complete and utter prejudice, and in my opinion, if anyone in a mental health role enacts that behaviour, they do not deserve to be in that role. It should be treated as medical negligence, because essentially, isn’t that what it is? If you were getting neglected for physical medication that you needed, you’d complain right? And you’d be within your right to do so, mental health patients, we don’t even get that quality, we aren’t even allowed to express indifference about our care, we are expected to just feel grateful they are there at all. Well not in my case, not anymore.
“Just one in seven (14%) of the patients surveyed said the care they received provided the right response and helped to resolve their mental health crisis. Another 42% said it had helped a bit. But two in five (40%) said the care they had received was not right and had not helped them resolve their crisis.”
“Many survey respondents told the CQC that the police and ambulance services were much better at helping them than the three key types of NHS teams that are trained to do so, namely A&E staff, community mental health teams and crisis resolution home treatment teams.”
These findings are literally disgusting, these are people who have apparently studied in the field of mental health for years, they had that privilege, to turn around collectively and still treat your role with that little respect, to treat those people with so little respect and have the audacity to somehow think they’re in the right about it, is more than insulting to me now. It has gone too far.
And they tie this article up with this:
““We have heard reports from people that helpline staff were hanging up on them because they were seen as ‘difficult’ callers. Many others told us they constantly have to explain their circumstances to a chain of professionals because notes cannot be accessed out of hours. In one shocking case a female patient ringing late at night was told to ‘do a crossword or something’ for five hours until the morning when the crisis team would be back in,” Rake said.”
There aren’t any words I haven’t already said on the matter of certain staff members being absolutely incapable, purposely. There is no excuse for that. You are dealing with people’s lives, this is NOT OKAY.
And while this report suggests that ambulance staff are often at times better able to deal with a crisis situation, this is not the experience I have had. The last time I needed an ambulance due to a physical complaint (my heart) they told me a paramedic was on the way, I then got a call from this apparent paramedic, he was the rudest one I have ever had the misfortune of speaking to.
Because as soon as he heard that I have mental health issues, they literally told me they weren’t sending the ambulance, and that I was just ‘having a bloody panic attack, just calm down’ I couldn’t breathe, but that wasn’t panic, it was physical pain. They then told the person on the phone for me that they would arrange a taxi to take me to the hospital.
So really, people honestly need to start taking their roles in the NHS a tad more seriously. Because when you feel like you cannot even access help for an immediate physical complaint because of their ignorant, uneducated views on mental health, the world really does feel like its backed you into a corner. Even if I was just having a panic attack that would have been the WRONG course of action to deal with it, and I’m almost certain they would know that.
In the case of criminalizing mental illness, more attention to detail needs to be present. The story of Thomas Orchard, a church warden who suffered with paranoid schizophrenia who lost his life due to the actions of some officers is a prime example of how attitudes toward mental health need to change:
“Orchard suffered cardiac arrest and brain damage due to oxygen starvation after an emergency restraint belt (ERB) was wrapped around his head at a police station in Exeter. He died in hospital a week later.
Kingshott and two detention officers involved in handling Orchard are on trial accused of manslaughter. They deny the offence.”
“Bristol crown court has heard that Orchard, who had paranoid schizophrenia, was arrested on suspicion of a public order offence in Exeter city centre in October 2012. He was shouting and apparently threatening passers-by and was taken to Heavitree police station, where the ERB was called for.
The prosecution said an ERB is primarily used by police by wrapping it around a suspect’s body at the chest, midriff or thighs. It argued the belt could also be used as a “shroud” but should not be used as a “mechanism of securing or control” in the head area.
But the prosecution claimed the belt was wrapped around Orchard’s face and he was lifted up to waist height in a face-down position. The jury was shown CCTV footage of officers carrying Orchard into the cell and placing him on a mattress, where he was held for nearly five minutes with the ERB still over his face, before officers left him.”
There needs to be a better distinction between criminal offence and a mental health crisis/episode. Because in my opinion, words are not enough to warrant THAT MUCH of a punishment, or a punishment at all for that matter. Schizophrenia is a serious mental health issue, anyone should know that. A cell, and an ERB is NOT the answer, CLEARLY.
This person did NOT deserve to lose their life because other people (people in an authoritative or supposedly protective role) cannot look past their own ignorance.
Overall, the attitudes of certain mental health staff need desperately to be addressed. Not only is there more evidence of specific stigma e.g. health professionals refusing to treat patients with certain illnesses (BPD being one of the main ones)
A recent study showed:
Negative attitudes towards patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) may affect their treatment. We aimed to identify attitudes toward patients with BPD.
Clinicians in four psychiatric hospitals in Israel (n = 710; psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and nurses) were approached and completed questionnaires on attitudes toward these patients.
Nurses and psychiatrists reported encountering a higher number of patients with BPD during the last month, and exhibited more negative attitudes and less empathy toward these patients than the other two professions. The whole sample evaluated the decision to hospitalize such a patient as less justified than the decision to hospitalize a patient with Major Depressive Disorder.
The findings show that nurses and psychiatrists differ from the other professions in their experience and attitudes toward patients with BPD. We conclude that nurses and psychiatrists may be the target of future studies on their attitudes toward provocative behavioral patterns (e.g., suicide attempts) characterizing these patients. We also recommend implementing workshops for improving staff attitudes toward patients with BPD.
As someone who has a pretty unfortunate co-morbid diagnosis, BPD is my secondary. Therefore, I take this extremely personally. Because they seem to, don’t they? They characterize an entire body of people as ‘attention seeking’ usually. But BPD is incredibly complex, and especially so for the sufferer, so having negative attitudes and/or judgements made about who you are as a person because of the diagnosis THEY have given you is more than morally wrong. It is an outrage.
There desperately needs to be more attention put into the training of mental health staff when it comes to personality disorders or any mental illness for that matter.
It seems too often for too long now, they have relied on the DSM, fitting people into categories and sections, reading that manual as if it’s law, as if it’s absolute. But mental health does not work like that. There are variations, intensities, tendencies, and so much more that mean the individual, should always be treated as an individual. Their care should be tailored to them as an individual. And they should NOT have to feel punished or criminalized for having a bad reaction to the negligence that has been involved with their care.
See I can just about manage societies misguided opinions, what with media’s infiltration to that fact. BUT what I cannot and will not tolerate, is a professional in the field, enacting the same petty behaviours, because it makes it ten times worse. It is one thing to be ignorant of something you do not know much of, but it is a completely different matter when that thing is something you TRAINED for in order to be able to do.
To conclude, I do not believe that ALL mental health professionals act in accordance to the standard that the people I have been involved with do. But, I do believe something seriously needs to change in respect to attitudes towards mental illness, and the quality of care patients of mental illness receive within community settings.
(If anyone has had any similar experiences with either of the services I have addressed in this post, as I said earlier in the article, I will take this as far as I can, so, If anyone has anything they want to add, please feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am attempting to collaborate a lot of personal experiences and more statistics etc to make a report regarding this issue)