Continuing on from Mental Health Madness PT1 having already had the hurdle of trying to see a GP, I decided as a writer to do what I believe many in desperate need won’t do, and that’s to fill in the Wellbeing Centres online seven-page questionnaire to try and access the service?
The question that shocked me the most was on the last page, it asked if I was thinking of committing Suicide and if so had I planned how I was going to do it? There was then a box where I’m asked to describe exactly HOW I would do it? I have to admit there was a mixture of shock, anger and sarcastic thoughts buzzing through my head at this point.
Once you’ve seen a question you can’t unsee it and I think it’s just human nature, curiosity and automatic reaction to do that theoretical thing, where your inner head Chimp goes “Oh okay, well I wouldn’t commit suicide but if I did how WOULD I do it?
I was tempted to write in the box “I’m thinking of shoving a stick of dynamite up my arse and wandering into the Wellness centre” (Wouldn’t have to wait 12 weeks to be seen then eh? )
I didn’t of course, it was left blank because I’m not suicidal but I find it quite horrific and unnecessary to ask such a question, not just at such an early stage of trying to access the service but to ask it at all?
For someone that wasn’t suicidal could it not suddenly become an option when presented with this question and made to think about it in detail? For those that ARE suicidal doesn’t this just fuel those thoughts?
In the main, and in my personal experience people that commit suicide don’t usually talk about it, in fact as in my brothers case they often lie and tell others they wouldn’t ever do that. So someone who was genuinely thinking of taking their own life wouldn’t fill the form in honestly anyway. Those that frequently talk about Suicide and have suicidal thoughts rarely go through with it, there’s often a pattern of self-harm, or/and drink, drugs, generally self-destructive behaviour involved in their quest to find someone to save them, often from themselves due to some past or present situation, so all the question does is fuel that thought and behaviour pattern.
Having submitted the form, two weeks later I received a letter……along with a two-sided sliding scale questionnaire that I was expected to fill in (I’ll be on Mastermind at this rate ). I refuse point blank to fill in these useless forms, it’s just another block that serves no purpose. For anyone unfamiliar with a sliding scale form let me enlighten you. The first problem with these questionnaires is that they are “One Glove Fits All” based, they take nothing else into consideration. So the conflict is the questions are looked at from a mental/psychological angle whereas someone like myself who has Scoliosis, Osteoporosis, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E) & Fibromyalgia view them from a physical angle by which they are impossible to fill in due to the daily fluctuating symptoms.
Trouble Concentrating on things such as reading the newspaper or watching TV? Not at all? Several days? More than half the days? Nearly every day?
Choose from the scale 0-8 how much you would avoid the situations or objects below:
Social situations due to fear of being embarrassed or making a fool of myself?
Certain situations because of fear of having panic attacks or other distressing symptoms such as loss of bladder, vomiting or dizzyness?
Would Not Avoid It? Slightly Avoid It? Definitely Avoid It? Markedly Avoid It? Always Avoid It?
If looking at it from a physical illness angle the questions all intermate that illness is a choice? There are many things I cannot do due to M.E & Fibromyalgia which are the ones that hinder me the most due to their symptoms, meaning avoidance of certain things is a result of physical illness. certainly not a choice.
“Can’t you just fill it in anyway?” encouraged the lady that called a few weeks later as part of my initial assessment. After explaining yet again why I refuse to fill in these forms, she agreed with everything I stated…..but then said it still needed to be filled as “part of the process”
As an added annoyance I was spoken to in a tone that made me feel as though I’d just pooped on the potty for the first time, and it was a conversation littered with what felt like buzz words that staff have been told to slip in as often as possible “Well done” “You’re being very brave” “Thank-you for sharing that” Yadda Yadda!
” Do you think we could we go through it together over the phone?” she continued, regarding the form.
“We Could, but it would be a lie because it’s impossible to fill in honestly?” says I.
“Let’s try anyway?” she insisted
I found myself suddenly regressed to a petulant child as I repeated, 8, 8, 8, 8, Basically, I just gave the severest answer for each question, we both knew it was meaningless but she was happy because the form had been filled and she could tick a box. She then informed me that I would have to go through a sliding scale form with the Counsellor too and off we went back and forth into battle again. She said she would have to speak to her manager and get back to me.
She got back a few days later to say they could offer me the CBT I’d requested for dealing with long-term chronic illness, but would I consider grief counselling after that?
Huh? I just wanted CBT for the whole kit and caboodle that’s going on in my life, it all kinda comes as a package?
Apparently, it doesn’t work like that, I can have CBT in terms of my long-term physical health conditions but they don’t deal in grief so I’d need to go back to my GP and see about being referred for grief counselling somewhere else or I might even be able to refer myself……again.
It’s a weird ask of someone really isn’t it, to separate their pains and emotions and departmentalise them so they can fit into the right box for convenience sake?
The conversation ended with her telling me the counsellor would be in touch in 4 wks to introduce himself properly and then it would probably be a 12 wk wait? That was in September and I’ve heard nothing since and it will probably boil down to the age-old “Slipped through the net” scenario that I’ve come to know so well over 29yrs, and that got me thinking, I’ve survived 29yrs without any real outside support or help for any of my physical conditions, in fact if we’re honest, like many I’ve faced completely the opposite, Ignorance, prejudice, negligence and downright cruelty. As for grief counselling? again, I’ve coped for three years without any help and I’ll continue muddling through I’m sure. What has been made so evident by my experience of trying to access mental health services thus far is how little has changed.
While I’m still angry and devastated and a zillion other things that my brother took his own life I really don’t blame him for not trying to access any help because it’s an Awful, Clueless, Jobs-worthy Scripted Shambles and had I been someone that WAS suicidal I would’ve stuck my middle finger up and jumped off the nearest bridge by now…..and I wonder how many have ?
The Wellbeing service is run by the NHS and we all know how overstretched they are as far as funding and staff go? but it isn’t all about money…or lack of, it goes beyond that, the whole process is wrong, lengthy and unnecessary, it’s patronising and even before physically talking to someone you’re put off by the sites talk of “expected out of session homework tasks” and “filling in of questionnaires to monitor symptoms and progress” I was just looking for a bit of help with my grief at the loss of both my siblings and also 29 yrs of living with M.E but there is no way on earth having experienced what I have so far that I would take it any further even by chance they do eventually get in touch.
With the barbaric roll out of Universal credit, mental health problems are set to rise. In October Glasgow MSP Annie Wells a Tory Mental Health spokesperson admitted that it was failing societies most vulnerable. And don’t think this is just the usual politics, the misery and deaths as a result of UC are intentional, the Government are hellbent on slashing the welfare bill at any cost and that’s why they are content to keep lying, remain emotionless to what’s happening & shift the responsibility to individuals, groups and charities to pick up the pieces just so long as they cut that bill. We don’t just have a mental health crisis on our hands, we have a humanitarian crisis on our hands. There is a serious ripple of discontent stirring throughout social media as various groups start to form and gather followers with a call for action and I believe it won’t be long until we see that action on our streets. This government need to start listening, for just as the people put them up there, the people can and will take them down again, the vulnerable are counting on us.
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