I have been seeing pictures of the darkness into light walk which was organised by pieata house, and while it makes me happy to think of all these people raising money for a charity that is helping people experiencing suicidal thoughts and self harm, it isn’t enough. It allows for an awareness of suicide that doesn’t include serious illnesses that devestate the sufferer such as bipolar disorder, anorexia and psychosis. Illnesses that are frightening and misunderstood by most people.
I went to Pieta House in 2012, and it didn’t help me at all. I was very very very unwell. The sessions were geared towards helping people who were dealing with suicidal thoughts and self harm because of a personal crisis, not someone who was suffering from a psychiatric illness. It’s great that there is a service for people form whom this sort of help is perfect, and I am in no way trying to bash it, or belittle it. For most people, it is perfect. But I couldn’t get the help I needed from this service because it is not geared towards long term support. It is for talking people through difficulties.
People who experience the sort of difficulties I experienced, people who are extremely vunrable need the help of doctors and psychiatrists, along with a multi disciplinary team that can work with them long term (pieta house only provided 12 sessions) to manage their illness. Chronic depression, bipolar disorder and psychosis (which is diagnosed as schizophrenia after a certain numbers of episodes) seriously reduce the quality of life of the sufferer. They are stigmatised, and difficult to treat, and if are left untreated for the years most people have to wait, make chances of recovery very slim. Suffered often use alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms to self medicate, which means that when they do end up in hospital they often find it hard to access the right treatment, or are limited by insurance, which only covers (in most cases) 90 days of inpatient treatment. This means that patients are discharged from treatment when they are doing better, but don’t yet have the skills to manage their illness in the community, which means when they come out of the community they often relapse into negative coping mechanisms. A vicious circle.
A friend I know with psychosis (who hasn’t received any real, lasting help from an overcrowded health system that is unable to cope and has been forced to come off her meds completely recently due to a mix up with her doctor and GP) has had psychotic episodes where she believes that the devil is controlling her brain and forcing her to do things (such as serious self harm). She has engaged in behaviour in public (such as shouting, climbing trees etc) that she is completely mortified of while lucid but when she is psychotic seem perfectly normal in the reality she is experiencing. Her psychotic episodes often make her think people are trying to kill her, and it is traumatising and terrifying for both her and her family, who end up being her main carers until she is unwell enough to be admitted to hospital in an never ending cycle.
Even though we both suffer from radically different illnesses, and mine is nowhere near as severe, we both have been let down by the healthcare system and our parents both pay for private health insurance. I can’t imagine the path my life would have taken if my family could not afford this, and instead I was forced to wait months for substandard public health care.
Once again, I think its incredible that people put so much effort into fundraising for Pieta House. If got up at a god awful hour to raise awareness, thank you because you are giving me the confidence to feel like its ok to be open about mental heath. Lets not let this success allow the government (specifically looking at you, Leo) take any more money away from our already pitiful mental health service in this country. And lets not forget about the people who haven’t benefited from this increased openness about mental health problems.