It’s #timetotalk

It’s #timetotalk about how the mental health system is failing those with chronic conditions and the impact it’s having on the person living with the condition and those around them. In the UK, 30% of people now have at least one chronic health condition. 4 million of these people also suffer with mental health conditions and many often struggle to access the correct, if any, resources.

My own mental health journey has been an extremely rocky one. Diagnosed in 2008, I’ve received a wide range of therapy from weekly psychology sessions, CBT, DBT, a range of medication, a long inpatient stay and tried what feels like all the alternative therapies going. Even with a large range of treatment dotted throughout the years, I still suffer with symptoms and I’m not afraid to admit now I do need support to keep me stable.

But, what happens when that support is not available? BBC have just published a recent article highlighting that over half the patients waiting for mental health support in general waited for over 28 days and that one in six waited over 90 days between their first and second appointment. For people with chronic health conditions, we might not even get a first appointment. What has come very apparent in my years in the system is we don’t fit the criteria. Because the mental health system is already incredibly stretched and has targets to discharge after a certain number of sessions, they don’t want people coming in with long term problems. So, we often aren’t taken in.

From the age of 18, despite having severe mental health problems, I was one of the many who wasn’t able to access any mental health support because I also had a physical health condition. There was one psychologist in the service, for a whole clinic of patients, whom I was able to see every 3 months but was unable to do any specialist treatment. This story, you will hear again and again in the chronic illness community. Because of the ‘chronic’ label, we lose access to other services, and it’s not right.

Why does this matter? First of all, it’s life saving. Mental health services save lives and there are many who are in crisis situations who aren’t getting the support they need. Secondly, longer term, this would have a positive impact on the patients wellbeing and quality of life; probably cutting costs for the NHS in the future. One of the treatments for chronic pain is therapy, yet there’s very limited resources. To keep many conditions stable, you also have to consider the persons mental health and keep that in check, and, if that goes then so does other areas (eating/attending appointments/community work/etc). You have to think about the impact it has on the people around the chronically ill person; how are the family and Carer’s coping with a person being so depressed? And finally, we deserve this. We have a chronic condition which can’t be cured and we deserve the right to have the support which isn’t limited to x amount of sessions when our condition doesn’t abide by these rules.

I don’t have an easy solution, as setting up mental health sessions for the chronically ill would take a lot of work and funding - I’ve even done some myself! But, I really do believe that more can be done to support the chronic community when it comes to mental health support and I for one will be an advocate for this. Something needs to change and I hope the change comes soon.

Kate x

Support information: Samaritans 116 123

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