I have just read the Mental Health Taskforce published February this year in the UK. If you live in the UK, and care about the quality of mental health services then I urge you to take a look at the Taskforce and email your MP urging them to make mental health a priority.
To Theresa May,
My name is Annabel Swatman and I have a mental health condition called borderline personality disorder. I was displaying symptoms of my condition years before I was eventually diagnosed at age 18. As a 18 year old girl I had high hopes and expectations for my future; I was heading to university to study, with plans to graduate in 3 years and continue on to medical school. Instead, I have spent the past 3 years in and out of hospitals and emergency rooms, dropped out of university and with it dropped my plans for an academic future.
I have learnt through my involvement with the mental health services that there is simply not enough support available for people like me, and the support that is available is not as good as it needs to be. For example; after a crisis I experienced while studying in Newcastle, my GP referred me to the local CMHT (community mental health team). 3 months later, after no contact from CMHT and after struggling to cope on my own, I booked another appointment to see my GP and was informed that as I was no longer in crisis the wait for an appointment would be long, and when I eventually got an appointment there was no guarantee that they would offer any therapy, treatment, or support. I was devastated.
When I first came to the attention of the mental health services I was 18 and had made an attempt on my life. The hospital mistakenly referred me to the CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) who were unable to offer me support or treatment as I was 18 years old. This caused a delay to my access of a suitable assessment and to treatment. With the crisis team in my area unavailable for long periods of time over the christmas holidays and no understanding of my then undiagnosed condition or support for how to cope with it, I was left stranded with only a very stressed and concerned family to helplessly watch their daughter disappear. Inevitably, my condition worsened and I made a second attempt on my life. At this time the NHS were unable to offer me the treatment I so clearly needed, and felt content with giving me a list of numbers to call in a crisis. I am extremely lucky that my family were able to get me treatment in the private sector. Without the treatment my family were forced to pay for, I am not sure where I would be today.
The shockingly long amount of time it took for the mental health services to take notice and offer help, meant that I went so deep into my mental illness, it took months to climb out. I had to put my life on hold, which has had a knock on effect with all aspects of my life. If I had been assessed the first time I was taken to the emergency department for suicidal behaviour, and received the preventative treatment then and there, I believe I would be graduating from university this year with good prospects for the future. My parents wouldn’t have had to spend their own money in order to get the treatment their daughter needed. I would not have spent 6 months of my life as a patient in a psychiatric hospital.
I am asking for you to help transform the mental health services, for your constituents who up until now have been putting up with a lesser standard of health care, simply because their illness is mental rather than physical.
I have just read the Mental Health Taskforce, as I am sure you have too.
The Taskforce has so many brilliant recommendations that people in power can use transform the mental health services, that you can use to transform the mental health services in your constituency, for people like me.
I want good mental health support to be a local priority. As my MP, you have a role to play in ensuring the Taskforce recommendations become a reality in our area. I am asking you to:
• Write to the Prime Minister. Ask how he will be implementing the Mental Health Taskforce recommendations for Government, and what governance arrangements will be put in place to support the delivery of this strategy.
• Help raise awareness in Parliament by asking questions about the recommendations, or lead a Westminster Hall debate.
• Speak with our local NHS and CCG leaders. Ask how they will be implementing the recommendations on a local level.
• Read Mind’s Parliamentary briefing on the key recommendations of the Taskforce.
I hope that this is just the starting point, and that mental health in your constituency is a priority, as physical health has always been.
I look forward to hearing your plans for supporting the Taskforce recommendations.
With best wishes,
10 Changes the Taskforce wants to see happen by 2020
If you don’t have time to read the whole document right now, here’s a handy summary taken from Mind;
- One million extra people provided with support for their mental health problem.
- 10 per cent fewer people take their own lives and everyone in a mental health crisis gets the right care, at the right time, in the right place, seven days a week and 24 hours a day.
- People’s mental health and physical health are treated equally – including people with severe mental health problems, pregnant women and new mums, and children and young people.
- All children and young people get the right mental health support, when and where they need it.
- Clear access and waiting time standards for mental health are in place so you know when you will get treatment.
- More people have access to the right talking therapy.
- Fewer people are sent miles away from home for mental health care – ultimately no one will have to travel for quality care.
- People who fall out of work due to their mental health are provided with personalised, effective and voluntary support to help them back to work.
- People who have had the worst experiences of accessing good quality mental health care, particularly people from Black and Minority Ethnic communities, get the help they need.
- Public attitudes to mental health have improved by a further 5 per cent.
Mind and mental health advocates here in the UK aren’t asking for much, and they have provided the government MPs with guidelines, recommendations and resources to help them achieve these goals. (If you’re interested you can take a look at the Mind parliamentary briefing here).
On the Mind website, there is an option to send your MP an email like I did asking them to prioritise mental health. I used the template offered but wanted to add my own personal story as well.
Thank you for reading,
Borderline Bella xxx