This is a bit of a personal rant, I'll admit. I'm a National Health Service (NHS) patient. For those of you not in the UK, it is run by the government which was created to ensure that healthcare was available to everyone, regardless of financial circumstance. The NHS has been slowly declining in its quality and reliability over the last few years under the current government, but that's a different story entirely. I want to talk about depending on the NHS when you have a mental illness, well, my own experiences of it.
I've had mental health problems since I was very young. I was self-harming at 13 and had attempted suicide multiple times by the time I was 16. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety (GAD) originally, which then lead to a borderline personality disorder (BPD) diagnosis. I have been on and off mental health medication most of my adult life. I have been prescribed countless cocktails of medicines in the past, some of which helped and some that didn't. Some that worked for a while and then stopped, but that's generally the way it goes with drugs meant to help with mental health. It may take a life time to get the balance of therapy, prescriptions, and self-management right — but if you're reading this you probably know that.
Mental illness doesn't qualify for a reason to apply for help with medical costs. None. The amount of help depends solely on your income and that of your partners (if you have one). Back when I was living alone, I qualified for a certificate due to my low income — two years later, I'm on a lower income, in about £3,000 of debt and financially responsible for keeping my own roof over my head. I have a partner who brings money into the household, but he is now also in debt. The problem is that the application process for getting help with prescriptions only takes into account three factors; your income, your rent and council tax. It does not take into account any other debts which are being paid off, how much debt you are currently in or any other outgoings such as car insurance. Unfortunately for me, a car isn't a luxury as without it I would be unable to work. So due to the above, I do not get any help with prescriptions at all. Add that to the fact that I am only allowed small prescriptions, due to my history of attempted suicide by overdose. I was paying £8.30 every couple of days for my daily medication. I am no longer taking that medication because I simply cannot afford it. I'm probably not the only one who's found themselves in this situation.
Another aspect of the NHS that baffles me is how they deal with a mental health crisis. All information for suicide prevention states that if you're feeling suicidal and likely to act on it, you are to ring 999 immediately. In fact, if you ring 111 (the NHS medical advice line) and state that you're feeling suicidal, they will send you an ambulance whether you want one or not. When this does happen, one of two things will happen to you:
- You'll have some really nice paramedics who will let you cry on them for a while and wait with you until a friend or family member can get to you.
- You will be taken to A&E with or against your own will, where you will be put in the waiting room. You will sit in that waiting room for hours. I've been there for five hours in the past, before just giving up and going home. Just to end up back there again for self-harm or overdose later on.
Surely it would cost the NHS less money to see mental health patients BEFORE there is something physically wrong with them? Surely sitting someone with me for an hour or giving me a couple diazepam is cheaper and less time consuming than having to deal with me when I am actually dying? Mental health isn't a logical thing, the majority of the time I do not want to die. The main problem for me is the need to do something and this often leads to suicide attempts when there is nothing else to do. So please, if you're a medical professional or even just someone with friends/family that have mental health problems — just listen. Give them the time of day even if what they're saying or feeling doesn't make sense. You could save a life.