What's worse - depression, or the system that deals with it?
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Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses have always been around, but it used to be that people were simply labelled "crazy". You’d think that modern medicine would mean mental illness would be dealt with better, but unfortunately this is not the case.
In my experience, unless you've actually attempted suicide or have visible self-harm wounds, you aren't taken seriously.
I woke up yesterday with an intense desire to end my life.
I attempted to take all the necessary precautions, such as asking those around me to hide any objects I could use to self-harm. I went about my day as usual, punctuating the day with fits of sobbing.
I was heading home when a calmness came over me. It was a calmness I’ve felt many times before - "the calm before the storm".
As the bus rolled toward the stop I took two deep breaths, imagining how free I would feel when I finally just stepped out. However, as the bus came to the stop I did not step out - I stepped backwards, and when the doors of the bus opened I got on.
I rode the bus to the hospital and headed to the emergency department. Still feeling calm, I told the receptionist I needed to speak to someone about my mental health. Shortly after, I was seen by a nurse who, quite frankly, seemed bored when I told him of my situation.
I was told to wait for a doctor in the waiting room. After almost an hour, I asked the nurse when the doctor would be available, only to be told that I would instead be talking on the telephone to a mental health team professional - something I could have done from home.
During the conversation I lost my feeling of calm. I almost immediately felt like I wasn't being taken seriously. I heard lots of sighs on the other end of the line and my favourite line: "So you've never actually attempted suicide, you've just thought about it a couple of times".
I wanted to tell the man on the phone that it was more than a couple times, that in a really bad low point it was multiple times a day, and when it was an okay point it was multiple times a week.
I wanted to tell him that the reason I had never attempted suicide is because I have no intention of "attempting" suicide - I plan to commit it. It wasn't until I told him about the bus that he suggested I wait at the hospital to see the crisis team.
I had arrived at the hospital at 7pm and I didn't leave until 1.30am. I was left waiting for the crisis team for five hours. When they finally arrived they seemed to take me seriously, but still sighed at almost everything I said. They suggested solutions that I’d already told them didn’t work for me, and again got hung up on the fact I've never attempted to take my own life.
When professionals who are supposed to help me make faces at me because I have never actually attempted to die, I feel like I have to. Like to be taken seriously I need to walk forwards instead of backwards when the bus comes.
Multiple times in those five hours I had the thought that I should have walked forwards because then I'd be seen quicker, then people would actually pay attention.
This is not the first time I have been in this situation. My mother once rushed me to hospital because she found me preparing to hang myself. It didn't take as long for me to be seen by the mental health team then, but the conversation only lasted 10 minutes. Once they heard I'd never attempted suicide before they decided this was a one-off and sent me on my way.
It took three to four years for me to actually be diagnosed with depression and put on medication. Multiple urges, three near-suicidal experiences, and still I'm barely taken seriously.
Mental illness is taboo until someone commits suicide, it seems to be the only way the world will listen.
Being made to wait five hours at hospital after telling them I was half a second away from walking in front of a bus is unacceptable. Treating me like I am stupid and lying because I have not attempted suicide is unacceptable. Treating me like I'm just another statistic is unacceptable.
The system is failing. It’s failing us as patients and it's failing as a whole. Its job is to help people to overcome their mental health problems, to make sure we don't feel like a danger to ourselves, yet it's the same people who end up in hospital or the counsellor’s offices over and over again.
The suicide rate may not be at its highest point, but it is still too high. At what point will the government, the system and the mental health teams realise they should be doing more?
WHERE TO GET HELP
Lifeline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 354
Depression Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 111 757
Healthline (open 24/7) - 0800 611 116
Samaritans (open 24/7) - 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
Youthline (open 24/7) - 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
0800 WHATSUP children’s helpline - 0800 9428 787, Open between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.
Kidsline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy, who are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.
Your local Rural Support Trust - 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)
Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.
For more information, contact the Mental Health Foundation's free Resource and Information Service on 09 623 4812.
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