I wish that I had the courage to send this letter to you in real life. While I have had some good support from you in the past, as of late it has been appalling. It has been appalling in the past too and for this reason, I'm highlighting the mistakes, inadequacies and 'wrongdoings' I've experienced with you these past seven years.
[EDIT: There are potential triggers in this post so please do not read if easily triggered. Keep safe.]
I was referred to you back in 2005 when I had not long turned 17. Due to my age at initial referral, I was immediately sent to you, the adult Mental Health Team in my area instead of CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service). I was seen by a psychotherapist for my severe spider phobia and after initial assessment, was seen by a student psychologist about five months later. Only now do I realise how fast this is in relative terms. I was seen by the student because this trained psychotherapist was afraid of spiders herself and unable to do the CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) with me on this phobia.
I got on with this student well but she soon discovered about my self-harming. After an assessment, she phoned her supervisor and after a brief chat, I was sent back to my GP so that I could be seen by a psychiatrist. Why did I have to go to my GP to be seen by a psychiatrist a few doors away from where I had been sitting with the student and her supervisor? This resulted in a delay with the referral and by the time I had been seen, I had a new symptom to add to my spider phobia, self-harm and frequent suicidal thoughts: an auditory hallucination.
The day before my appointment with this psychiatrist, another student, I had to go to Accident and Emergency requiring steri-strips (butterfly stitches) on my shoulder after self-harming. However, the next day at the appointment with the student psychiatrist, this was viewed as normal teenage behaviour (I was now 18) and my suicidal thoughts were dismissed as 'teen angst'. The spider phobia was seen as more severe than usual, so I could continue with the CBT if I wanted. When I told him about the suicide attempts I had had up to that point (about 4 or 5), how the devil now wanted me to kill myself and how I was scared, I was met with a bored expression.
The student liaised with his supervisor and then called my parents into the room with us and he discussed his findings: I had, at most, mild depression. I could continue the CBT and the fluoxetine (Prozac) my GP had pleaded with me to take, if I wanted, and only after a lot of persuading was I finally granted a referral for talking therapy. I was told how I was the lowest priority and it would take at least a year before I would be seen. At this point in my life, had I been listened to, I could have had support to help me with the auditory hallucination before it escalated.
I was also completely med-compliant at this point. I was so desperate for something to help me that I would have taken pretty much any drug that was thrown at me if I thought it could help. A low dose of fluoxetine was never going to help with the early symptoms of psychosis, which ultimately led to schizophrenia. If your student psychiatrist had listened to me, where would I be now? Would I have graduated from university? Be employed? Have a mortgage? Have a family of my own? I will never know what my life would have been had your student listened to me. Early intervention in my psychosis could have helped me to deal with the symptoms in their early stages and I might not have ever ended up in hospital. I would have been med-compliant too, instead of refusing everything when I finally received help.
After your student had left me feeling like a time-wasting attention-seeker, I kept my symptoms silent for nearly two years. The talking therapy I had been referred for had finally been able to begin, but I had one major problem. I had moved to another area and was now on another CMHT's waiting list. This CMHT listened to my symptoms which had become progressively worse but because I was no longer willing to take medication, I ended up being sectioned. Your student psychiatrist had left me believing that I wasn't unwell and so when I was told I was unwell two years later, I didn't believe anyone.
After my eight weeks in hospital, I was sent back to you. I was supposed to be seen within 48 hours of being discharged from hospital. It took a week before anyone came to see me and I was only seen because my dad phoned you and asked why no one had seen me. You had forgotten about me within days of my discharge from hospital. After a second time sectioned and a much lengthier stay in the local hospital, I finally started recovering from my symptoms which were now being called schizophrenia.
Since my discharge from hospital, I had reasonable care for about a year. However, I had to battle with my CPN to get a support worker. She refused to refer me for one and it was only when she was no longer my care co-ordinator and the role was transferred to the psychologist I was still seeing from the Rehabilitation Unit that I was finally referred. So I finally had a support worker, after about a year of asking. In January last year, I stopped seeing the psychologist at the Rehabilitation Unit and if it wasn't for the support worker, I would have been without any support for two months. I had no care co-ordinator as you didn't have the staff numbers to offer me one.
In March last year, I was finally given a CPN again. The support worker was withdrawn and instead of being seen on a weekly basis by someone, I was now being seen every 3 - 8 weeks by this CPN. I had no warning that the support given was going to be so minimal and I didn't feel ready for such a drastic change in support levels. However, I had to adapt to the minimal support and had no choice but to get on with it. After constantly asking for more support, I was finally told in October that I would be given a new care co-ordinator, a social worker. I would see her every week. Finally, you listened to me after years of me screaming at you.
I saw this social worker twice. On November 2nd 2012, I was told that I would be seen again 11 days later. 11 days has turned into more than three months because of her going off on long-term sick. My dad phoned you on a weekly basis during the first six weeks I was without support. He was never told anything useful, only that "she's not back yet." We had no word of when her estimated return date would be. Between Christmas and New Year, I plucked up the courage to phone you myself and after much pleading with a new starter, I was transferred to the duty worker.
In the approximate two-minute conversation with her, she tried to put the phone down on me two or three times. She told me how understaffed they were at this time of year and how I should understand that Christmas and New Year were times when staff took their holidays. When I finally got through to her that I wanted support, she told me she would tell a manager and then slammed the phone down on me. I am sorry for taking up two minutes of her precious time to inform her that I had been with nothing for two months.
I must add here that while I understand how your staff like to take holidays over Christmas and New Year, people with mental health difficulties often find this time of year more stressful than any other time. You should have MORE staff in at this time, not less. If a member of staff doesn't want to work over Christmas, maybe they shouldn't be in a job that should require working over Christmas. I grew up having one of my parents who often worked over Christmas. We never allowed it to spoil Christmas for any of us. Your staff should realise that they are working in an important job and if they don't want to work over Christmas, they should find another career.
This duty worker did manage to find a few seconds of her time to tell this manager of my predicament and the manager phoned me a few days earlier than I had been told she would ring. I had been away at this time but was relieved to find an answering machine message on my return. I thought that finally, I was being listened to and would get support back. I phoned the manager and was told that as she was in a meeting, she would ring me that afternoon. After no phone call, I went down there after a hospital appointment and asked to speak to her. After the receptionist contacted her, I was told she would see me in five minutes.
Half an hour later, a male manager appeared and spoke to me. The closest thing to useful advice he gave me was to keep busy. I'm sure Cleverbot would have been able to give me advice of more use. However, being told in the patronising voice he had used to keep busy, I ended up more stressed than when I had gone in. While I couldn't prove this, this male manager acted like he was infinitely more superior than me and seemed to dismiss things that I was saying because of my gender. My crying was just my time of the month apparently. It couldn't possibly have been because I had been without support for so long!
I have now given up trying to get support from you. After breaking down in tears at group therapy last week (you also promised me support before starting this, another one of your lies), the psychologist there told me she would get one of you to ring me, which you did. This duty worker who I'd never spoken to before was lovely and told me that you would ring me last Friday or today. It is now 6:30pm and I can't see you ringing me today. Or even tomorrow.
While I have no intention of harming myself or anyone else, I cannot speak for anyone else you have abandoned. We have had one letter in this time. All it said was what we already know: Our care co-ordinator is off sick and if we have any concerns, we should phone you. How many times do I need to phone you?! When will you listen?
I would also love to point my local MP or AM to this post but again, I don't have the courage to. I couldn't even use this as a complaint as I have been reliably informed in the past that you always ignore complaints. So what can I do until my care co-ordinator gets back? How much longer do I have to 'keep busy'? How many more times will I call you to have the phone slammed down on me? How many times will you not return calls you have promised to make? When will you start listening to people?
If I thought I had a chance of success, I would sue. I really would. However, I know that my past delusions would nullify my credibility. Also, as your managers seem to be well trained in the art of covering their backsides and not getting fired, instead of helping their patients, they would end up looking like the victims. When will you get your act together? Why can't you re-allocate those of us without support to the care co-ordinators not off sick and while we would all lose some support, we would all at least get something, instead of some of us getting nothing? Is it because you are breaking this law? Are you knowingly breaking the law for a few people rather than for all of us? Is it another way of covering your backsides?
Please get your act together BEFORE any deaths occur because of your incompetence. While I wish that I really could send this letter to you, I don't have to courage to. It will just remain another angry blog post.
A very stressed schizophrenic.