Visualise the most important person in your life standing before you smiling. Focus on that nice warm feeling deep down inside of you. Focus on the happy memories you two have made together. Think about the things you still hope to do with this person. Now picture a huge fire, dark red and burnt orange flicker close to your face, the heat becoming painful. You hear them screaming, but you can’t save them, you can’t reach them. Why? Because this fire is in the mind. It’s a slow-burning killer called mental illness. This fire can be put out if they get the right help in time however.
But, despite you, your loved ones, and many other people begging the mental health services for help, no help comes. You are simply promised callbacks that never happen. You are told to go to A&E to sit on a hard, metal chair for anywhere between six and twelve hours, only to be told it’s not an emergency, be given a leaflet, and sent home. If you had a broken arm and were turned away, it would be headline news. Yet the culture in the UK is that mental illness isn’t important. Everything you had ever hoped for and planned for that person is burning right before your very eyes. The so-called ‘professionals’ tell you to think positive thoughts, man up, and stop ringing. Your thoughts turn darker.
‘Maybe I should make the mental health service people suffer for ignoring my loved one.’
‘Maybe I should join them and kill myself too, as I’m only being a burden on them by staying alive. It’s obvious that no help is coming.’
You ring more and more, write more emails, send more letters, make more visits, but you are simply told that if you keep ringing you’ll be arrested for being a nuisance and to try the Samaritans. The Samaritans are a brilliant listening service, but that’s all they are, a listening service. They don’t give advice and they can’t give regular support or treatment for a specific issue. Even patients living on actual mental health wards are being told by untrained staff to stop bothering them and to ring Samaritans.
You are helpless
The years go by so quickly. Your loved one is suffering day in day out now, but all you can do is watch helplessly as they get worse and worse. The things you had hoped to do together now seem very unlikely. You now just spend the remaining days of their life looking after them, checking on them, making sure they are actually alive and not dead on the floor without anybody even knowing. No coffee shops. No cinema trips. No shopping. Phone calls get fewer and fewer. They just simply exist, trapped in a house unable to do much for themselves.
It’s heart-breaking, it’s traumatic, and it’s sucking the life right out of you. They often tell you they are sick of being in pain, sick of not getting any help and just want to die, kill themselves, finish it, or, in their own words, ‘escape the darkness’. You break down into tears. All you can do is watch as your loved one grows older and older and the pain they are in gets worse and worse. Time is running out. You feel so angry towards the authorities who have robbed you of your loved one. You know deep down inside they may die before you. The word suicide lingers on the tip of your tongue, the word suicide torments your mind, haunts you in your sleep. When you ring to check on them, their phone is often switched off and you just wish and wish to yourself that this isn’t the time they’ve gone through with it. Gone forever. The coffin lowered, never coming back. You know full damn well it didn’t have to be this way. Your loved one could have had a decent quality of life, if there was mental health treatment available for all, not just the rich.
‘System’ fit for nothing
What you have just read is how I feel every day. My father is suicidal, has severe depression, PTSD from child abuse and experiences in the UK Army, is also physically disabled, yet, despite all of this, gets no mental health support at all because the UK mental health services are so awful.
Important- I refuse to ever refer to the NHS Mental Health People as a ‘system’ as this word implies something is working, which it quite clearly isn’t. The dictionary definition of the word system is:
SYSTEM – A set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network; a complex whole.
With privatisation, staff cuts, and entire hospitals and services being shut down, the result is hardly anything being connected or working well. Suicidal people who are ringing 999 for help are being handcuffed and taken to court for ‘wasting police time’ or ‘malicious communications.’ Nearly everyone is telling desperate, suicidal people to ring the elusive ‘crisis team’ for support, but these people are extremely difficult to get hold of, and when people eventually get through, they are simply told to make a cup of tea or told to go to A&E and wait for hours, only to be sent home again. People who ring ‘too much’ are arrested and charged at court with ‘harassment’. This happened to me. Let’s just say it how it really is. There is no system. What’s happening in the UK is a deliberate cull by the Tory party, it’s been happening for years and it’s only getting worse.
I have written various articles about my horrific childhood, so will not repeat in full everything that is already published. However, for the people reading my work now for the very first time, I will go through the very basics so you can get some context. I grew up alone with my father, as my mother suffers from serious schizophrenia and was in and out of mental health hospitals, I’ve only met her once in my life. At the tender age of twelve I was dragged away and put into a secure mental health hospital, where, day in and day out, I got tortured psychologically and sexually.
I was sent around the country like a parcel, denied an education, then spat back out into the community at age 19, with very little support. When I actually got the courage to ask for support in the community I was demonised, sent to court by NHS mental health services and given various criminal convictions for simply asking for help. They called me a ‘nuisance’ and accused me of ‘wasting the services time’. They classed the bloodstains on the carpet, the blood spray on the wall, and a cut wrist that required seventeen stitches as a waste of everybody’s time. My life meant nothing to those people and never has done. This has heavily traumatised me and I know I will never ask the NHS for help ever again.
For most of his life, my father has struggled with his mental health. He suffers from serious suicidal depression, agoraphobia, anxiety, PTSD from child abuse and experiences in the UK army, as well as having serious, life-threatening physical issues. He is addicted to prescription medication such as codeine, diazepam, lorazepam and related drugs. He was prescribed this medication by a psychiatrist in the mid 1980s following a suicide attempt. He told me that in the early 1980s he had a proper mental health team, was able to speak to a psychologist and, when he felt like he was getting really unwell, was able to voluntarily admit himself to a mental health hospital for respite.
Care in the community?
My father also worked for a short time as a psychiatric nurse – just throwing that into the mix. Unfortunately, all of these services have gone now, they were shut down by Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government. People’s lives didn’t come into it. ‘Care in the community’ was promised but this never materialised. The people who were the most desperate and in need of lifelong support were simply put into bed and breakfasts or in flats on their own to rot. Suicide was inevitable, but this is the Tory way. Profit before people. My father had a scary, abusive childhood which has seriously traumatised him. He has attempted suicide twice, on both occasions nearly dying. As a result of these suicide attempts, he has a destroyed pancreas, resulting in a serious condition called pancreatitis which he is on medication for. He also served in the British Army for a year which he very rarely talks about, nor gets any support for.
When I was a child, we did do some things together like go to the cinema, go to the beach, meals out, and so on, but sadly I don’t really remember many details as my memory has been affected by trauma. Whilst I was locked up in secure services being beaten to a pulp and raped, my father didn’t receive any specialist support and never has done. To have your own child locked up hundreds of miles away from home being subjected to abuse, not being able to save them, and not knowing if they are ever coming back home is one of a parent’s worst fears. He tells me he’s eaten up by guilt and haunted daily by the memories of this, but, because it was the NHS that caused this, they don’t want to know.
Fast forward to now and my father has sadly become so much worse. He lives as a recluse, never leaving the house. He orders all of his food and things he needs from Amazon. He says he feels suicidal every day and that I’m the only reason why he stays alive, as he feels it would destroy my life if he ended himself, which it would. This is gut-wrenching to hear, knowing my father is in such pain. He has warned me that one day he will tell me the date of his suicide, so I can prepare. It’s something I’m constantly on edge about. I can never relax. He often switches his phone off and is out of touch for short periods of time. Three days to a week sometimes goes by before he replies to messages or even switches his phone on again. During this time I worry he has killed himself. It’s a huge stress for me which I have spoken to my own GP about, but, again, have been fobbed off. My GP, despite being rushed off her feet due to cutbacks, has told me she thinks it’s truly evil what’s going on in the UK, the lack of help, the lack of compassion from services. She said she was extremely sympathetic but explained there’s very little she could do. Another brick wall.
No money, no help
About a year ago, I raised my concerns with his GP again who simply told me that, with all of the cutbacks, getting a specialist or psychologist is rare, and, even if he was to get one, it would be about twelve sessions and that’s your lot, so she suggested I try and get some private help for him. So I did. I made a fundraiser to try and get my father into private specialist therapy. I successfully raised around £350, but that money ran out after a few months, so therapy stopped, and, as a result, his mental health declined again.
This is how it is in the UK. The most desperate people in need of serious help are just left to die or are criminalised. Everything costs. Seeing a private therapist is around £50 to £70 a week, which neither I nor my father can afford at the moment. Getting my Dad regular help is my main motivation for staying alive. It drives my writing and other ventures, including life coaching. I’ve had nearly everyone I’ve ever loved taken from me by the NHS. I’ve had so many close friends kill themselves after being turned away.
Everything I had ever hoped for or wanted has been destroyed by this evil regime. With criminal convictions for ‘harassment of ringing the crisis line too often’ and ‘malicious communications’ I have a criminal record which has stopped me from getting the jobs I studied for a degree to achieve, and, in the UK, criminal records are never wiped, so it will always be this way. I can’t even get a volunteer position due to how strict the policies in the UK are. Buying a house will be difficult for me too, as people with convictions are also often rejected from taking out mortgages in the UK.
Punish, punish, punish
Every week I read horror stories on the internet about people being turned away from crisis services, then they end up killing themselves only a few hours or minutes later. There is no compassion at all. The answer here in the UK is to arrest, criminalise, punish, punish, punish. If you need help, you can’t just admit yourself to the hospital as you can in other countries. It’s a leaflet or a referral to a waiting list here, which means a lifelong wait. It’s a cycle of pain. Person A never gets any help, kills themselves, which affects Person B (his children/close friends), which affects Person C, D, E, F and all of their close friends and family. People aren’t bothering to take into account that a human life isn’t a singular thing. It affects so many other lives. One loss of life could, quite easily, result in five, six, seven more lives lost.
So, in light of all of this, how do I actually cope with knowing my father is suicidal and may end his life? Well, the answer is that I simply do. It feels like I’ve already lost him. He is aware I feel like this. The truth is that I am propping him up, keeping him hanging onto the smallest thread of fight left in him. I’m used to the fact he can’t visit my house due to his agoraphobia. I’m used to the fact he often doesn’t call, text or email. I’m used to the fact we don’t go anywhere apart from sit in his often dirty house. I’m used to the fact that soon I may lose my loving father to a system which pulled both of our lives apart and tortured us both for most of our lives. I’ve prepared for his death by distancing myself from him psychologically and focusing on other people for my main emotional support. It’s horrible and sad, but it’s the way it is here in the UK.
At the end of the day, it’s my father’s choice whether he ends his life or not and I wouldn’t love him any less if he did. I would understand. He has been my best friend, my teacher, my guiding force and I will love him with every bit of my heart and soul forever. I will end this article by saying that no matter what happens, I will continue to fight for better mental health services for the rest of my life so other people don’t have to grow up without parents as I had to.
Thanks for reading, Michelle.