This evening on Twitter, thousands of people began tweeting their experiences of mental health care, in order to highlight some of the issues within treatment systems and negative perceptions people have towards mental illness. This trend has come days after an article written by the Independent states that most people would not want someone with a mental illness caring for their children, and over 60% would not want someone with depression marrying into their family.
If you haven’t read through this Twitter trend, I would highly recommend that you do. Some peoples’ experiences are, to be frank, abysmal and heartbreaking. I’m just going to note here that some things mentioned in this post may be triggering to some, with mentions of eating disorders and other illnesses.
As someone who has dealt with ill mental health with varying severity since I was around the age of 11/12, I was one of those contributing to the trend about some of the poor care I have recieved. My first referral to CAMHS (Child, adolescent mental health services) occurred just after I turned 14. I was terrified about going. I didn’t want to have to talk about how I had been feeling, I thought how I felt would be belittled. Unfortunately, that fear was confirmed. I was told that while I was clearly exhibiting some signs of mental health difficulties including self harm and disordered eating habits, it was most likely down to hormones and would sort itself out soon enough.
I was told I would be rung within two weeks of that appointment; the phone call never came. My next meeting was in August, 6 months after the initial appointment. It was here that the suggestion that I may have PTSD was mentioned, but nothing was done and I was subsequently discharged.
Two years later, I had developed an eating disorder and was referred once again. This time, the treatment I received was so much better. For a few sessions, I saw the eating disorder team until it was mutually decided that my depression and anxiety required more work. After a trip to A&E following an overdose, I was put onto medication which has honestly helped me so, so much. Although I am thankful for the treatment I’ve had this time around, I’ve still been the victim of a deeply flawed system. Since September, I’ve seen a different psychiatrist every medication review as there are few permanent ones so we rely on locums. I’ve been promised to have teams get in contact to check up on me and these have not happened.
I also question as to whether the severity of the eating disorder I developed could have been prevented if I was listened to first time around and given adequate preventative treatment, rather than just being brushed off as what essentially felt like them thinking that I was just a girl who liked my food.
I understand that problems don’t lie with workers at CAMHS, and I certainly don’t blame those who have said or behaved in ways that have proved damaging. What I do recognise is that the way mental health is treated within health settings, schools, universities and other large institutions needs reform, to ensure that the huge amount of heartbreaking tweets on this trend are not repeated to such an extent in the future.