“My kettle is always on, my door is always open. I want 5 friends to repost”
Every time one of my well-meaning friend’s re-shares these Facebook posts it makes me want to scream. I get it, they think they’re being supportive. But honestly, I just want to message them asking, if I actually turned up at your “open door” and told you that I’d been having intrusive thoughts for the last 6 weeks.
What would you do?
Would you have the training or resources to help me?
And if we did chat, and you offered your best advice, and then later that night I died? Where would that leave you?
We’re trying to reduce the amount of people dying from mental illness, but whilst society and large mental health charities are still promoting the agenda that the treatment for mental illness is chatting to a friend, we’re failing.
I agree, the level of care should be relative to the severity of illness, it’s a sliding scale, but once a person has progressed past the point of occasional low mood within “normal ranges” the treatment should be from professionals, not friends.
With 1 in 4 of the population struggling with mental illness, the chances of having a friend that has a capacity to support you whilst trying to manage their own issues are slim. And simply, they’re not trained to do so. We don’t ask friends for treatment for broken bones, so why is that the answer for a broken mind?
This cannot be the answer.
We need to educate people on what the signs of mental illness are and encourage them to seek professional help in the early stages. We need education on what “normal ranges” of low mood are and then we need to make sure we have a health service that is fit for purpose, with appropriate treatment protocols delivered in an acceptable time frame for those who are ill.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 50, however up to 95% of patients are waiting 18 weeks to speak to a therapist. Anecdotal evidence would suggest this is a generous statistic, with wait times closer to 6 months.
To put it in perspective suspected cancer patients wait no longer than 62 days from referral to starting treatment. We saw the gap in the underfunded national health care system and bridged it by starting a charity that delivers all of the above.
But It’s hard.
One of the worst parts of working for BTG is having to refer people back into the failing system for more intensive treatments because their illness has progressed beyond our remit.
This happens because they didn’t seek help soon enough and the NHS services weren’t there when they did.
It happens because they didn’t recognise that they were ill, and they were told they could fix it by chatting to a mate.
And because of that, people with a treatable illness die.
It’s sombre and uncomfortable but it’s the truth.
So please, if you want to help reduce the number of people dying donate to local charities that are making a difference. You can check where donations go in their annual accounts and reports on the charity commission. Go and see them in person, speak to people they’ve supported, volunteer for them.
Lobby your local MP to increase NHS funding for mental health support, and if you’re concerned about a friend give them tools to access resources. And please, I know people mean well but instead of sharing a chain mail status on Facebook, share links to local mental health charities, infographics, links to support groups, and the number for helplines.