Why Did I Become A Mental Health Advocate?

“Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.”

Nido Qubein

Back in January of this year I decided that I wanted to take a stand, a start down the road of stomping out the stigma and taking an active role in changing people’s perceptions. I wanted to be able to speak out about the realities of mental health, both the hard struggles and the good. I wanted to be able to take a part in hopefully changing things, at a local and national level, so that people can access better mental health care than what is currently available. This is something I am still doing, and I will not stop fighting for what is right!

The UK is currently the 5th richest country in the world, yet the mental health services here have there funding cut on huge levels year after year. This funding never seems to be increased; it just goes down like a never-ending sand timer. This is something that needs to be changed.

I remember back in 2005 when for the first time I was admitted to a psychiatric ward. I attempted to take my own life and I agreed to go inpatient for a short time. Whilst on the ward, I recall the huge amount of therapeutic activities that where held every day. We had access to a gym, we had a pool table and table tennis, and even table football. There were 3 different rooms you could relax and watch tv or DVDs or play on one of the many game’s consoles. One room was dedicated to music and proved quite popular on karaoke nights. There was even a dedicated team of therapists who held weekly meetings with patients to plan out the activities for the coming week. Some of these activities included 1to1 reiki sessions, group art sessions and even trips out now and again to football matches and the like.

Fast forward a couple of years, I would once again be an inpatient on this very same psychiatric ward. Except there where now some differences. The therapeutic team now only consisted of 2 people, that’s a cut down from 6. Many activities had been locked away, like the pool table and table tennis. This I was to learn was because the staff numbers had now been cut. Activities off the ward like trips to football matches never happened now, and reiki sessions only happened once a week, if you were lucky enough to ever get a time slot. Another thing that changed was the ward now had its very own dedicated psychiatrist. Prior to this, your own psychiatrist would come in to do the ward rounds. I didn’t like the thought of this change, as it takes a long time for a psychiatrist to get to know you and vice versa. Weekly ward rounds had now been moved to fortnightly as well, so you would often be in hospital longer than required.

The above was the very first indications for me that the government was making cuts, and it would only get worse in the years to come, even in the community setting. Appointments that once took weeks (days in an emergency) now took several months. I would only ever see my psychiatrist every 6 months, and it wasn’t till my next appointment that I noticed some other changes had been made. Psychiatrists now had their workload doubled, they had far more patients than before due to some doctors being made redundant. One-hour appointment times had now been reduced to 20 minutes, and if for what ever reason you missed your appointment, you would have to wait another 6 months because the doctors where so snowed under with work.

I have noticed over the years to, that community-based therapy groups started to disappear. We used to have therapeutic communities and drop in sessions for talking therapies. There were even groups to go out gardening and go on guided walks in the countryside. All of this no longer exists.

All this is part of the reason I decided to become a mental health advocate. As well as hopefully making changes for the better within the mental health services. I also wanted to put my story out there, and talk openly about mental health, in the hopes that it will help to break down the walls of stigma. I also wanted other people to know that, you are never alone, no matter how much you think you may be. I am hoping that by blogging about my experiences with mental health, I can at least help other people in the process.

My own personal story is on this blog in the first 3 posts. It’s not nice but its real, and I want people to know that they are never alone. To never be afraid to reach out when you need help. That there is always somebody who cares.

Mental health illness is horrible, but it is far more common than you may realise. Here in the UK, 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health illness in their life. And with numbers like that, why is mental health funding still being cut? It’s a disgrace and it needs to be changed.

Having a mental illness doesn’t make you any less worthy of treatment than somebody with a broken bone.

Thank you for reading.

Stay Safe and Take Care.

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