The government has in recent days released funding to inject mental health services with the vital resources it needs to counteract rising rates of mental illness, inequality in effective access to treatment, nursing care and addressing mental health within schools and universities.
According to the government the investment will ‘pay for more mental health ambulances, community services for people with mental health problems, specialist crisis teams linking schools, social services and young people’s mental health services, and teams in schools supporting people with mild and moderate mental health problems’.
This is positive news that will hopefully contribute to a more holistic approach towards mental health services.
As someone who has suffered mental illness throughout my life, particularly during my adolescence, I am able to relate to some of the issues this population is facing.
Bullying, in particular, is attributed to the mental decline of many children and young people. In fact, as a mental health nurse most service users have one thing in common: they all have a history of being bullied at school.
With the rise of social media means that different forms of bullying are more prevalent.
Therefore, one of the core themes in this area that appears relevant would be addressing elements of self-worth and self-esteem in young people as individuals, as part of mental health education .
Suicide is often related to worthlessness and lack of purpose, so it seems reasonable that being a victim of bullying or succumbing to the pressures of adapting and conforming to values of social acceptance dictated by the trends in social media such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, could contribute to the subtle but progressive erosion of someone with fragile self-confidence and at a young age particularly school years, one’s ability to effectively manage emotions is tenuous.
I hope therefore that the government will look into educating young people further on self-worth, self-awareness, positive coping strategies and promoting kindness and compassionate values towards each other through educational group work and incentives.
It is imperative that we address the root of self-harm and suicidality among young people proactively and offering counselling to bullies themselves to explore and address their destructive behaviours at a deeper intrinsic level offering help and resolution to all parties.
On another level, as a nurse who has worked in Accident and Emergency, I understand and have experienced stigmas related to the ‘frequent self-harmers’ often labelled and misconstrued as both ‘manipulative’ or ‘attention seekers’ who appear to be undeserving of care, compared to someone admitted because of a serious road traffic accident.
Once again, I feel this stigma should be addressed through education, particularly education in specific mental illness such as bipolar and personality disorders which are often far more complex to treat .
I suffered many years engaging in some highly destructive and impulsive behaviours including a suicide attempt and regular relapses with alcohol addiction and felt very misunderstood. I was often accused of being ‘dramatic’, ‘too emotional’, ‘too sensitive’ or told in very blunt terms to ‘grow up’.
This response not only reflected a deep misunderstanding between myself and the people who were on the receiving end of my attempts to relay my inner anguish, but also compounded the deep pain even further as I felt a burden and a complete nuisance to others, perpetuating and fuelling even stronger feelings of worthlessness.
Despite being seen by a number of medics over a span of 20 years, the root of my self-destructive behaviours and symptoms of anxiety and depression were often dismissed as purely alcohol-related, which was the symptom of the illness itself .
I believe that had the medical professionals who reviewed me as a patient and my historic notes, they would have perceived a deeper issue and thus referred me at a more swift and timely level of intervention so that I could have received the help I needed at an earlier time in my life – saving me from the many devastating repercussions of the illness itself.
I truly hope the money being plugged into the NHS will be diverted too and allocated to the areas which I have referred to and that waiting times are decreased to save many lives from the chains of depression and darkness that can often lead to such heartbreaking outcomes of mental illness, which is so often suicide.
Let’s hope this money will be the light that brings hope to this spiralling epidemic in today’s society to inject those struggling with meaning, purpose and hope that recovery is possible and to allow it to mould the individual into someone who can then reach out through empathy and connect with other sufferers, enhancing understanding and eliciting deeper connection with those around them.
Marry Harrison is a registered general nurse and registered mental health nurse and have lived experience of mental health problems .