Tade Evans describes his experience with the mental health system and argues patients need better support.
It started with the crying.
Done in secret, behind locked doors and late enough that one would think everyone asleep. Laying awake I heard the build up of repressed feelings and trauma pour through my bedroom wall. Muffled cries that stabbed and pierced my ears like nails on a blackboard.
What followed was months of dread and uncertainty as I watched my mum fall victim to this virus of the mind, moving in and out of hospital trying to absolve herself of this burden. In all of this maternal absence, I visited the mental hospital only once. Stepping into that grey, dilapidated visitors’ waiting room has stuck with me ever since.
I expected to find a group of people blissfully unaware of their predicament, wandering about exerting odd even comical behaviour. But what awaited me was something much darker, a body of people who had lost hope, who understood that leaving this facility, however much they wanted to, would be a death penalty because the urges to end a prolonged sadness were too strong.
‘I hope to start a conversation and give my view on the subject so that others can ask questions as to why we treat mental health the way we do.
Initially I felt contempt for being left alone, shifting between grandparents’ houses, having to explain to my brother that I don’t know where our old mum is or whether she’ll be back soon and all this time still in the dark about why or how this had happened to her. As I look back now, I regret feeling this way. I wish I had taken the time to truly understand how my mum was feeling.
What sticks with me most is the time we lost, waking up on my 13th birthday to a Facetime call and then being rushed away so family members could try and distract me with presents and cake or Christmas morning without her there to wake us up. I knew something was wrong, but could not define it.
Reflecting on this experience I often wish I could have done something sooner. Had I noticed her behaviour earlier, maybe this would never had happened. However, it did. Fortunately, this period of darkness is in the past and we have our mum back. But sadly, an inefficient and broken system means that many lose their parents forever, and that people feeling despondent and broken continue to struggle without access to the help they so desperately need. Having seen the impact mental illness can have on an individual and their family has made me a passionate activist of causes intended to help those who are suffering. I hope to start a conversation and give my view on the subject so that others can ask questions as to why we treat mental health the way we do.
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Mental illness and the importance of wellbeing have come to the forefront of political debate and covers of magazines in recent years. Celebrities have cashed in on the old taboo and health professionals advise as though this were some new phenomena.
‘These disorders are universal; so why is it that the health sector distributes support based on postcode and socioeconomic status?
For years these disorders of the mind were seen as the signs of a lost soul or a case of “bad nerves”. Thankfully, fights for acknowledgement and support have made many feel safer, letting them know that they are not alone. Succumbing to depression or anxiety, can have immense resounding effects that may destroy a person’s life and self esteem. The consequences ripple out into the community and into the minds of those closest to the victim, making everyone that little bit more aware of how devastating a run in with mental illness can be.
I have talked previously of my disgust for the underfunded and often limited mental health support available to young people in Wales.
I feel it is important to note that depression and other mental disorders can affect anyone. A lapse of depression or anxiety can strike at any time and the side effects can linger for a lifetime, leaving those affected in a state of limbo, feeling isolated and unable to function as they normally would. Illnesses of the mind are pernicious and furtive, they do not discriminate on the basis of age, gender, or occupation. These disorders are universal; so why is it that the health sector distributes support based on postcode and socioeconomic status? Why is it that those most affected by mental illness, many of them poor or vulnerable, are left to fight these battles alone?
Obtaining access to mental health support through NHS Wales is a long and arduous process. The victim must first tick several boxes at the GP office, wait hours on end for a phone call from one of their already overwhelmed community psychiatric nurses, before they can receive a referral to a licensed psychiatrist. In more serious cases, a near-fatal suicide attempt is the only way of securing admission to a facility under the Mental Health Act (1983). The issue with such a selective and conditional process is that the nature of mental illness is volatile, persons may experience sweeping changes in emotion and suicidal tendencies. For those suffering with complex disorders such as bipolar and schizophrenia, fading in and out of psychosis means that they have the capacity to act “fine” and “normal”, leaving their loved ones to plead their case to psychiatrists once they are turned away from receiving support.
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The answers to this problem affecting those at the bottom of society can be found at the top, in the corridors of Westminster where the Welsh Government is funded, before reaching NHS Wales. This issue of people being failed by the health sector is indicative of an NHS that has fallen to the whims of ignorant middle management and cuts, laid out in Tory manifestos. A crumbling mental health service run by ignorant politicians unaware of the true scale of the problem. Most recently, news of a rise in national insurance, meant to fund social care, show how the utopic welfare state we so earnestly promote and encourage has failed the very people it was created for. Once again, the torch of self-sufficiency is passed on to those barely scraping by.
‘It is these forgotten children who feel the true impact of the mental health crisis; those who are left to wade in constant worry that their caregivers will fade away again.
But what of the children who lose their parents to this silent killer or watch on as the loving, joyful, “full of life” person, they once knew, slowly corrodes into an empty shell. A mum who can’t bring herself back to reality, who can’t care for her kids because she can’t care for herself or a dad that can no longer sit in crowded school halls and watch school plays or take them shopping for their birthday. It is these forgotten children who feel the true impact of the mental health crisis; those who are left to wade in constant worry that their caregivers will fade away again.
To the children of parents, in this seemingly unending cycle of uncertainty and dread, who feel guilty for not being able to comprehend what is happening. To all those going through this difficult time I assure you that actually, it will get better.
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