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I want to start by saying that I am very lucky. For a start, I married an Occupational Therapist who specialises in mental health, which is like the holy grail of husbands for someone with depression and anxiety (Love you, Mr Becca!).
I also have a pretty good GP. When I’m struggling and need mental health support, I can call my GP and get an appointment that same day. When I go to that appointment, he encourages me to take advantage of CBT or Counselling, which I can access on the NHS via a self referral system. Then he discusses the benefits of using therapy alongside medication, to help me make a decision about how I want to manage my mental health. I self referred and they contacted me within a week. I had a telephone assessment within 2 weeks and was sitting in front of a therapist within 4 weeks.
Unfortunately, I know that my experience is pretty rare.
So why is it not like this for everyone?
My experience shouldn’t be thought of as “lucky”. Everyone should be able to access mental health support without having to fight for it. Without having wait months for their name to get the top of a stupidly long waiting list, while their mental health deteriorates. The thing about mental health issues is that, the longer you wait for help, the less you feel able to ask for it. When you already feel like you don’t matter, that you’re worthless and don’t deserve anyone’s help, it’s really hard to put yourself out there and ask for help anyway. And the longer you have to wait to actually receive mental health support, the longer you’ve got for those negative thoughts to grow and make friends with new negative thoughts.
But what can we do about it?
Honestly? I don’t have the answer to that. We all know that the NHS doesn’t have bottomless pockets. We all know that it’s not just mental health that’s underfunded. But mental health is an issue that is very personal to me and, I suspect, to many of you that have found my little corner of the internet. As a blogger, with an audience that is growing slowly but surely, I’m going to do my part by continuing to write about mental health openly and honestly. Raising awareness is important. Fighting stigma is important. Letting people know that they can reach out for help is important.
We have to keep fighting for better mental health support. We can’t carry on treating mental health like physical health’s poor cousin. And we can’t just accept that this appears to be some kind of postcode lottery. It’s not fair that some people are lucky enough to be seen fairly quickly and others have to wait months before getting any kind of help.
What can you do?
If you know someone who’s struggling, let them know that you’re there for them. Encourage them to see their GP and to keep pushing for mental health support.
If you’re the one who’s struggling, know that there is help out there. Reach out to your friends and family. Let them support you. Speak to your GP; if there are long waiting lists, find out what kind of support you can access in the meantime.
Above all, don’t give up. You have a voice; make it heard.