Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week.
I asked my sister whether she felt she was surviving or thriving...
Here’s what she said:
“Sometimes it feels like a lifelong search for a happy ending.
When I think of those gentle, carefree days of my existence pre-trauma, the long summers, the security and feeling of assurance that comes from being loved by good people, I can remember being there, being that person, but it's so hazy now. It's as if that version of me is a character in a book I read. A book I loved but can't find to read again. A book that no longer graces the shelf of any library, no search on Google brings it back. It was, whilst I lived it, a story that I felt certain would have a happy ending. Because one does feel certain about this kind of thing when time is just a concept stretching out in front of you. When the endless possibilities of youth don't factor in struggling to stick around.
Now as an adult with PTSD I live day to day. It would be fair to say I survive, I don't thrive. I have bad days and better days, the latter bring with them a little immunity against the power of the worst days, the ones spent down the back of the settee wondering when I'll venture out again.
When I engaged with MH services I had a far greater ratio of better days, I even had good days. I've struggled to find my feet since my allotted period of therapy ended. I didn't feel wholly ready for my therapy to end but I had simply exceeded the number of visits to services allowed per service user.
For me the search for a more stable and content state of mind would be assisted by the availability of a more diverse range of aftercare when discharged from services. Somewhere you could drop-in without too much pre-planning or ado, and just 'top-up' your mental health. CBT teaches you some excellent coping techniques but sometimes you still need the guidance and reassurance from someone in your corner who knows exactly how you feel.
I strongly believe that a truly person-centred approach to service provision would be hugely beneficial to service users. Some of the personal hurdles I have encountered in trying to maintain good mental health have been down to also having physical health problems which impact on my ability to agree to regular attendance at community MH projects that stipulate 75% attendance rates. Yet when I signed up to a project that did home visits we soon ascertained that what they provided; 'help with form filling, managing bills and securing/maintaining a tenancy etc', wasn't actually what I needed either.
I struggle to feel safe in wider groups that contain male substance abusers as one of my triggers is being around anything that reminds me of my violent ex-partner. I have left two groups and not returned due to this. I know groups cannot always make you feel better but my personal experience dictates that I won't return to ones that make me feel worse.
There is a dramatic difference in service provision based on which area you live, the same applies to the length of time you will spend on a waiting list. Out of all the things recovery is dependent upon I feel really strongly that a person's postcode shouldn't be one of them.”
My sister does a great job of surviving. If the support where she lives was available sooner, easier to access and took a more person-centred approach, she might even be thriving.
One year on and we know that the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health is making progress on these issues nationally. But people live locally. That’s where positive change needs to happen. And we need to work towards that every week of the year.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.
Mind provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. For further information about PTSD including tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family visit their website.
If you would like to understand more about the causes, symptoms and treatment available for people living with PTSD, you can find out more on the NHS Choices website.
For more information on ‘Why everyone should be talking about Mental Health’, see our previous blog by Kate Linksy.
Kate Linsky is the Programme Lead - Mental Health at the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi)
NDTi is an organisation that promotes equal and inclusive lives for people in their communities, particularly where ageing or disability are issues
Kate Linsky's blog is a personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the NDTi.