Earlier this week a National Mental Health campaign took place. The Time To Talk initiative is an annual promotion advocated by the Mental Health charity Time To Change. The aim is to reduce stigma that often seems common place with mental illness whilst encouraging people to speak out and seek help and support for any mental health issues they may be experiencing.
Back in January 2015, I had a breakdown. This breakdown was a culmination of a year of high level anxiety and depression that I was experiencing. I’d tried with my best efforts to gloss over my feelings, thoughts and fears. However, after 13 months of pretending like all was OK, my energy became depleted, my hopes for one day waking up and feeling better were in vain and I could no longer cope.
I hit rock bottom.
I was lucky, however. I met with quite possibly the best GP I have ever interacted with, she took my situation incredibly seriously and made it her duty to ensure I received the very best treatment and support possible. She listened, recognised and knew exactly what to do. For that I am eternally grateful.
It was with extreme sadness and anger I read an article on Tuesday of this week. As soon as I saw the headline my heart sank and I felt my palms begin to sweat slightly. Perhaps that sounds like an extreme way to react upon seeing a news item, however the story I’m about to describe to you is one that should never have happened. It need never have been reported. And that is the thing I can’t get out of my head.
In September 2015 a woman called Rachel gave birth to her second baby. In the weeks after the birth she began to suffer from extreme anxiety. She was experiencing visions and was in an agitated state. Serious symptoms being displayed by a woman who had very recently given birth.
Rachel visited the maternity ward of the hospital she had given birth in to be informed she could not be seen as she had been discharged some weeks previous. When things did not improve Rachel visited her GP, she had the awareness of the illness Postpartum Psychosis; a severe mental illness that can develop in the days and weeks after giving birth. Discussing mental health care with her GP she was told “you don’t want to go down that route”.
“You don’t want to go down that route?”
No-one WANTS to be suffering from a mental illness any more than they’d want to break their ankle or suffer a heart attack. What a ridiculous statement for a person in the profession of health care to say.
Rachel was prescribed medicine for depression yet her Mother said she became increasingly paranoid about ‘losing her mind’. Concerned, her family and friends stayed with her for 24 hours a day. However, in October 2015 Rachel locked herself in her bedroom and cut her wrists.
This wasn’t the only suicide attempt Rachel made.
What Rachel wanted was to be referred to a Mother and Baby Unit at a hospital. This referral was made, but for reasons unknown Social Services blocked the move.
Over the subsequent months Rachel’s mental state became worse and in April 2016 she was sectioned and admitted to hospital. She was promised that she would be able to have her medication reviewed. Rachel waited three days for this review to take place. But it never did.
On April 16th 2016 Rachel was found hanged in her hospital room. She died eight days later.
My stomach sank when I read those words.
Anger rose within me.
Rachel asked for help. Rachel had the awareness that she was suffering from a serious mental health condition, she knew what treatment she needed better than those who are supposed to be in the know.
This has left me with questions.
How loudly did she have to shout to ensure she was heard?
Why did social services block the move to the Mother and Baby unit?
Will lessons be learnt from this awful situation?
Throughout this week I’ve watched as celebrities, high profile individuals, charities, bloggers, journalists, pretty much everyone have verbalised the words “it’s time to talk”. And of course I agree, everyone needs to be encouraged to talk, the stigma needs to be smashed to smithereens, people need to open up about their mental health. But having read Rachel’s story, right now, the words that reverberate around my brain are “it’s time to listen”.
Rachel deserved better.