Many of the Mental health services in Hertfordshire are appallingly inadequate, It’s probably the same all over the country but I prefer to stick to fact rather than assumption and as someone that lives in Watford Hertfordshire I know it to be true.

It ‘s not that it was any better in “The good ol days” I remember many years ago a young girl of 14 taking an overdose, after getting her to hospital to have her stomach pumped we were told it was a 6-8 wk wait before she could be assessed for appropriate treatment/Counselling and then another few months wait before she could start that treatment/Counselling.

In the meantime, if things got too bad she could “Ring the Samaritans” You mean that organisation where it’s like talking to a brick wall and where they keep asking if you’re thinking of taking your own life until it feels more like a suggestion than a question? Yes, that organisation.

Fast forward to 2018, I’ve had two friends that have been sectioned this year due to sudden mental health issues. Their families, frightened and in a state of shock themselves were given no support & little information and had to fight every step of the way, even getting hold of the visiting times turned into a drama. Meetings were arranged but when relatives turned up, the meeting had gone ahead without them. Severely affected are placed in with moderately affected, my friends & their families witnessed daily fights and attacks, it was only when alarms went off that staff came otherwise they were rarely seen. When any issues were raised to staff or management it was met with hostility. This is not only unhelpful, but it adds to an already traumatic situation, I believe this environment is dangerous and detrimental to an individuals recovery, especially when the mental health issues are moderate. Management & staff should be working with Patients and their families and vice versa not battening down the hatches and preparing for battle.

We have all this mental health awareness going on, The Media, Social media, TV, Radio etc telling people to speak up and get help, but in many cases the help that’s available isn’t fit for purpose and individuals are often branded as trouble-makers when they try to raise issues. This isn’t anything new, but it needs to stop so that vital changes can take place.

Those of you who’ve followed my articles over the years in my Column at the Watford Observer and on social media will know that in 2015 I lost my own brother to suicide, ironically he had volunteered as a Samaritan for 18 of his younger years, we’d had many discussions and disagreements over the often robotic emotionless way they operate, but he was a grown man and I respected his choice. Having lost my Sister to a rare Sarcoma just five months later, it’s left me bereft & adrift ever since.

In 2017 I reluctantly went to see my GP, I say “My GP” but does anyone actually know who the hell their GP is these days? And even if they do, what are the chances you can get to see them? There was a time that a patient and GP built up trust over time, a relationship, and an extremely important one at that. When an individual goes to a GP whether it be with a physical or mental health issue it’s tough enough to confide without finding yourself sat opposite a total random. I believe the breakdown of the GP/Patient relationship has had a huge negative impact on both parties. Doctors have always worked in a stressful environment. As a child we had a Dr Filose, the kindest most patient man you could meet & he resembled Raymond Burr from TV Police Drama “Ironside” for those old enough to remember? Little did we know until after his sudden death that he was an alcoholic battling his own demons. In fact in the Herts Adult Mental Heath Strategy 2016-2021, it states that between 2014/2015 9,105 GPs were known to have serious mental health issues.

Having waited two weeks for an appointment to see whoever was available first, I felt as though I’d entered and exited via a revolving door, feeling awkward and not sure how to start I muttered that I was stressed, without any eye contact whatsoever she leant over her desk, grabbed a card, handed it to me and told me to look the website up online and refer myself and I could sit in a circle and share my feelings. Horrified by the suggestion of “Sitting in a circle sharing my shit” & telling her as such, she told me to check it out anyway, “Is there anything else I can help you with today? No? okay, bye”

Fast forward to 2018 and I repeated the sequence again, revolving doors, random GP, card, self-referral yadda yadda! and back out again, only this time I followed it up online. The first perplexed face I pulled was at having to fill in a seven-page online questionnaire.

Really? I may not know a lot, but through decades of research and personal experience of supporting friends, family & randoms with various mental health issues, I know that someone in mental distress is not going to sit there writing chapter and verse for seven bloody pages.

While lack of funding is an obvious issue in many cases, it still doesn’t excuse the blocks, I’d like to know who comes up with all these blocks, evidently someone without a Scooby Doo because let’s face it they don’t do anyone any favours and are just jobs-worthy blocks that serve no real purpose to either party apart from a lot of paperwork & making it extremely difficult and off-putting for vulnerable people to access the service, and what about those that already have the obstacle of learning disabilities? Although there’s the option of phoning and going through the questionnaire with someone, when feeling emotional who wants to have seven pages of questions fired at them? And some quite shocking questions at that……..

Out of writer curiosity & for research I DID fill in the seven page questionnaire, so Join me next Friday for Mental Health Madness PT 2 where I’ll continue to share my own experience at attempting to access counselling, those shocking questions, and also some of the problems faced by self-funded services, you won’t want to miss it. And if you have stories and comments of your own? Feel free to share them in comments below.


Runnin on Empty is a Watford born writer and musician, a vegetarian she lives a yogic life here in Watford and can be reached on @runninonemptee