Today a tweet flew past from a man about the mental health system and how terrible it is. His comment: “How any human can sit in a position of power and let this happen is beyond me.” And the truth is, it should be beyond anyone. The system is a shambles. We are not a third-world country who have more need to dedicate resources to clean water and distribution of food. We should be doing better.
I have driven hundreds of kilometres to try and find the help a friend needed to keep herself and those around her safe, only to be turned away. Suicidal/homicidal ideation turned away because we tried to go through a different DHB, after our local one refused to help. Desperation rewarded with nothing; trying to cobble together a solution ourselves because the system is overwhelmed.
I have paced in a hospital for ten hours, waiting for mental health assessment, desperately trying to hold myself together. Seeking help was so hard, and locking me in a pretty blue room for half a day like a prisoner put me on the edge of losing control. What got me through was ED nurses showing some compassion and bringing me terrible tea and dry sandwiches. They tried, unlike the mental health system, who had nothing to give but a bed and hourly suicide watch.
I have seen people age out of the youth mental health system, to find that the resources available to them as young people don’t exist in the adult world.
I have met people who have been in acute care for more than a year because there are no long-term beds any more.
I have seen people in dire need of acute care discharged because there’s no room for them.
I have seen attempted youth suicides leave with no treatment.
The system that we deal with is terrible. Desperation and disappointment characterise it, and the vulnerable people that reach out for help are likely to be fobbed off with less than they need, because there are simply not enough resources to go around.
The mentally ill are almost voiceless. No-one advocates for us the way they do for education, or for social justice. There are outspoken people, but it’s not enough. We’re almost a silent crowd.
Mild mental illness gets a highly successful ad campaign. Serious mental illness gets swept under the rug, except the rug’s not there because they cut the funding for that too. Still, it works, because no-one’s looking at the pile of deficiencies that the rug would hide.
Our youth suicide rate is appalling, and the adult one not a whole lot better. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that a good proportion of those suicides were people with experience with the mental health system, who have been utterly failed by it. I promised myself once that I would die rather than go back. I went back, and now I’m utterly sure I will die before I go back.