Whilst the mental health system is undoubtedly seriously underfunded throwing money at it alone will not resolve all its current failings.
My experiences of being one of its consumers for over twenty years have not significantly alleviated my distress and in many instances, have compounded and reinforced my feelings of being unloved, unlovable and that my emotions are unjustified and something to be ashamed of and kept hidden.
I have met many individual mental health professionals, from all disciplines, who have been kind, supportive and skilled but the fundamental ethos of the system has done me more harm than good.
I first saw a psychiatrist at the age of eighteen following a referral from my GP after I presented with self-inflicted cuts on my arms. I attended this outpatient’s appointment on my own without telling anyone that I was going. I had been suffering in silence throughout my teenage years and was hopeful that this would be an opportunity to talk about how I felt. I was wrong.
The interview consisted of a series of standard questions attempting to elicit and identify symptoms and pathology. They were delivered in a cold, inhuman way that did nothing to put me at ease or encourage me to talk about how I felt. There were no questions about any traumatic history or any concern that I hadn’t made any of my family aware of the appointment. He also asked to see the injuries on my arms which he described as not serious. This further exacerbated my thoughts that I was making a fuss about nothing and that my feelings are invalid and not important. It also gave me the sense that I would have to increase the severity of my self-harm to be taken seriously.
I have been asked to show my injuries and scars to mental health professionals on many occasions largely, it seemed, to provide an indication of the severity of my distress. There is not a correlation between the severity of a physical injury and the level of emotional distress that caused it and describing injuries as not serious can lead to an escalation in severity. In my case it led me to threaten my own life.
It is not acceptable to ask to see injuries or scars unless you are treating them. I have found it humiliating, belittling and it has made me feel like I am an exhibit in a freak show.
The appointment ended with the psychiatrist stating that my behaviour was probably related to the stress of taking my A levels and that no further follow up was needed. After years of feeling not heard and unimportant my suspicion that this was because I am unworthy of care and attention was confirmed.
I got excellent A level results as I am lucky enough not to suffer with exam stress and went to university. Before this my behaviour and feelings had been reasonably contained as my mother had constantly instilled in me the need not to show her up as a bad parent. I had largely complied with her wishes as I feared her…
Continued in Part 2.
Written by Anonymous