Theresa May’s mental health reform speech on Monday was the first time I’ve heard her say more than a soundbite, and also the first time I’ve heard her talk about anything other than Brexit, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
At the opening of her speech, I wanted to support her. I wanted to believe she would say something genuinely meaningful and compassionate. I also hoped (perhaps naively) that she would make reference to the effect of austerity upon mental health. May is in a good place to acknowledge the negative impact of previous political choices, after all. While she is maintaining many of those choices, she didn’t instigate them. She has mostly inherited the bad decisions made by others, most obviously David Cameron, becoming essentially the country’s largest-scale supply teacher.
Initially, her opening discussion of the overt and covert injustices present today were impactful, leaving her actual reform strategies as arguably the weakest element of her speech. Similarly, while her view on reducing stigma (below) says all the “right” things, it does so without providing anything tangible or practical, or any awareness of where the Government themselves have been guilty of removing that attention and treatment.
Everyone has a level of physical health which changes over time and as a result of circumstances.
A minority of people are at their peak of physical health, the healthiest they could possibly be.
The majority of people are generally healthy: they don’t have to worry about their physical health as everything is working well enough to live their life.
Minor physical health issues such as colds or aches and pains, are common. They temporarily make life doable but more difficult. People with longer-term minor issues learn to adapt and accommodate around what is tougher for them- perhaps they can usually function at 95% of the generally healthy level .
Major physical health issues can make normal life very difficult, requiring someone to change how they live for a bit and often need a recovery time/ gradual return afterwards.
Then a small percentage of people have chronic, severe physical health issues that mean they either cannot function in a typical life at all, or they need to adapt almost everything about their life to live and function.
Why did I just write that? Everything I’ve just said is common sense. It doesn’t need saying.
But try it again, swapping physical for mental…
For people in the UK, there are two ways to go about investigating dissociation (using that as the catch-all term for everything on the dissociative symptom spectrum).
The first option to to straight-out ask your GP, if you have an alright relationship with them. As the majority of GP’s won’t be knowledgeable about dissociation, that will probably involve bringing some information about it to the appointment. It would also be best to specifically asking for a referral to the Clinic for Dissociative Studies, rather than a local psychologist.
If you’re not sure how your GP will respond, or want extra support in the decision beforehand, then another option is to contact the Pottergate Centre, a dissociation-focused organisation with an office in Norwich, UK. They have an online contact option, where you can get two dissociation screening tests from them, and send the tests back to them to be analysed, all for free. You can then take the results, and their analysis, to your GP- they will also include extra information about dissociation with the results.
On February 25th, Facebook’s safety division announced an extension of their suicide prevention initiative. They describe the initiative as being based on work with suicide prevention organisations, clinical research, and lived experiences from mental health survivors.
From what I’ve seen so far, parts of this initiative seem beneficial, and useful for helping people through a bad night or self-destructive impulse. However, there are still some concerning areas, and there has already been at least one example of just how this initiative can be dealt with wrongly.
Firstly, the good parts. For a potentially-suicidal person, the idea of pointing out that they seem upset or distressed from what they have posted is a good one- it might be what makes them realise they are having difficulties beyond typical life, and might encourage them to see what the offered help is.
For the person who flags a status, having the option to send an anonymous “someone thinks you might be in trouble” message reduces one of the barriers people often have in talking about mental health issues. It starts the conversation in a low-risk way, without requiring a face-to-face question that many people just don’t know how to carry out.
Despite having sat through my fair share of mental health assessments, I don’t know much about them. As I don’t personally know anyone who has experienced one, and don’t really have many people I could ask about how they work, my knowledge is entirely from what people have said online.
Out of everything I’ve written about in the last few posts, one meeting has always remained in my mind, because it was simultaneously the worst and the best experience I had with mental health professionals.
Having never had anyone to “compare notes” with, I’m going to explain it here, in case it comes in useful for future reference or for anyone else. Again, personal information has been removed.
Some notes for this series; I’m not going to be using any identifying information, so I’ll be referring to each person involved by a letter+ number to tell them apart, as it does get rather confusing. The colour-coding is also just to keep track.
K1– university counsellor
K2– university wellbeing practitioner
L- one of my friends, who I needed to bring with me to some meetings.
C1– first mental health assessor at the community services.
C2– second assessor at the community services.
C3– final assessor at the community services.
One of the services involved in my treatment was my GP’s surgery.I don’t have much to write about this part, as I chose to avoid them as much as possible. While they technically knew everything that was going on, because each other service wrote letters to the GP updating them with new developments, this didn’t have any practical use.
I wasn’t exactly organised in making appointments to get medication, which meant I didn’t see one doctor consistently. This made it very easy for me to slip through the cracks, avoiding all of their questions.
One of the things that can stop people looking for help with mental health issues is the uncertainty of not knowing how they are referred and diagnosed, what kind of place they need to go to, or what person they need to see.
This is especially true for people under 18, who may not want to see anyone in case it means involving their families or sacrificing their ability to keep information confidential.
Online communities can answer these questions to an extent, giving some people’s experiences. But these sometimes focus on only the easiest experiences or the worst experiences in getting help.
Personally, my experience was in-between these extremes; some of the services I used were really accessible and useful while others made less sense. Similarly, some of the people I saw were really supportive and helpful, and some weren’t. So I thought I would explain my experience getting support, in case it’s helpful to anyone.
Part 1 (Uni)
Part 2 (GP)
Part 3/ Part 4(Community Services)
Part 1-Pottergate Centre Screening
Part 2- GP
Part 3- Community Services