Health

Talking is a good start, but the mental health crisis goes far deeper

Accessing mental health care can mean a battle at every turn – we want to hear about your fight

Are some illnesses more serious than others? More important to fix? I ask because last week my GP practice refused to issue a prescription for my eight-year-old daughter. She’d seen a psychiatrist a couple of weeks before to speak about medication for ADD (attention deficit disorder) and just as we were leaving the psychiatrist asked if our daughter had ever had sleep problems.

This got my attention; she has always struggled to wind down her busy mind at night. Well in that case, said the psychiatrist, let’s try a course of melatonin (the sleep hormone) before we prescribe anything more invasive. She said that occasionally just topping up melatonin levels and restoring good sleep patterns can be enough to improve a child’s attention. Just one thing, she added, it’s not licensed for under-55s. But it’s just a hormone, has very few side effects, if any, and is prescribed off-licence for people of all ages all the time. No problem, we said.

But after 10 days, the prescription still wasn’t ready to collect from the GP surgery. We called them up to ask why it was taking so long. They said they’d received the letter from the psychiatrist but wouldn’t be issuing the prescription. Practice policy, they said. You need to go back to the psychiatrist. They wouldn’t say if it was to do with the licence.

The psychiatrist wrote the prescription within a couple of days, but it meant we had to travel 10 miles to a hospital to collect it, rather than two minutes to the GP. And what happens when we need a repeat? But really, what I want to know is this: was this prescription refused because of the mental health aspect? ADD in itself isn’t a mental health condition, but the pressure for affected children to conform often triggers severe anxiety, which is why it’s vital to manage it effectively.

Accessing mental health care can mean a battle at every turn. I’m a well-informed, well-supported adult with no mental health problems and sometimes I don’t have the energy for these battles. So what about the others? The vulnerable, the unsupported and the unwell? The ones who feel like they’re a burden to their families, their doctors and to society. Do they fight it out or just disappear into a corner?

This mental health awareness week we want to hear about your fights. Your mental health battles. Cuts that are preventing access, waiting times that are unreasonable, delays, of skewed rules standing in the way. Share your story, anonymously or not. We want to listen. Email us at editorial@bigissue.com, tweet us @BigIssue or get in touch via Facebook

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