Saturday 10 October 2015

World Mental Health Day 2015

TW: self harm, suicide

Current statistics tell us that one in four people will experience some sort of mental illness at some point in their lives - mental illness, such a broad term, encompassing depression/anxiety/eating disorders and a thousand other things, each different and the same all at once.

Personally, I suffer from depression and mild anxiety; I'm in recovery, and this week marked 10 weeks clean of self harm. But as Taylor Swift once said, just because you're clean don't mean you don't miss it. And it's true, because some nights I still ache for the sense of relief and I claw at my skin and my head pounds with thoughts I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. I'm glad to say, though, that these nights are getting fewer, and further between, and maybe easier to manage.

One in four people; there are four people in my immediately family, and two of us have suffered from depression. One in four people; in my group of best friends, there are twelve of us and I'm the only one to have suffered a mental illness. That doesn't mean the statistics are wrong, but they manifest in ways that seem illogical, and frustrating. One in four people might be going through the same thing I'm going through, or that my girlfriend is going through, or that my godsister has been going through, or that my brother went through - they're the three people I love most in this world, and they've all suffered. Including myself that's four out of four. You never know who it's going to be.

World Mental Health Day is an opportunity for us all to carry on the conversation that so many of us are desperately trying to pursue: end the stigma, make it easier to access the help that is so damn necessary, reach the day when mental illness is treated the exact same as a physical illness. Watching from the sidelines as my girlfriend's mental health deteriorates has been frustrating, to say the least. In fact that's an understatement and I can't think of how to describe it. It almost feels like I'm suffocating - buried alive with a bag on my head and a tonne of bricks on my chest, yet I can still breathe, and I know I should be able to shift the bricks, and untie the bag, and break my way out of the shallow grave. But somehow, I can't.

Things all came to a head on Tuesday, and there were lots of tears and shouting and a phone call to the crisis team. If it's urgent and she's a risk to herself, go straight to A&E - if not, call your GP and arrange an urgent mental health assessment for tomorrow. Short of dragging her by hair, I couldn't get Sam to go to A&E so I called the GP and we went home and had a bath and an early yet sleepless night. The next morning came all too soon and off we went to the doctor. After much faffing, patronisation, anger, frustration, going round in circles and feeling like you were dizzy, we had an urgent referral to the crisis team.

"They'll call you in 3-4 days," said the doctor. I nearly fell of the gross plastic chair in shock and asked her, politely, who we were meant to call in the meantime should things get any worse. Her attitude was disgusting, and she was so snappy with us: "I'm just telling you it'll be 3-4 days I can't make it any sooner." I told her that's not what I meant, and I understood that's how long it would take, but I wanted a number we could call in those few days, in case the situation got any worse. She was rude, unhelpful, and wouldn't give us a number to call - or anything for that matter.

Luckily, the crisis team did phone the next morning and an appointment has been sorted; but that still doesn't take away from the ugly, unhealthy, rude and rotten attitude of the GP - it wasn't her problem, she was sending a referral, what more did we want her to do? She treated Sam like a child, was patronising to the extreme, referred to me as Sam's ""friend"" despite us making it clear from the beginning that I was her partner. It was all just a clear manifestation of the way mental health isn't taken as seriously as physical illnesses.

This post isn't about my illness, or Sam's illness, or anyone's - it's about mental health and how we need to buck up as a society and look after our friends/family/peers. Reach out to people, do everything you can to make someone smile, be the light switch they need when it's 3am and they're crying into their pillow. Keep the conversation going, and don't stop until the stigma is dropped.


  1. I'm so sorry that you've had to deal with that attitude. I was so lucky that my GP was very good and did his absolute best to help me, but sadly I seem to be one of the lucky few when it comes to that. Society certainly needs to change its views on mental illness, I hope that it does sooner rather than later.

  2. The attitude of your GP sounds sadly all too familiar; I've been to mine on two rare occasions that I've managed to muster up the courage and left both times with a mere leaflet and feeling embarrassed and frustrated on top of everything else I was feeling. The more stories the better - best of luck to you and your lady!

    Tore | xo