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Mental Health Services Make Me Mad!

Jo Aylott Sep02

I met Graham at the conference in Oxford over the summer and promised him I'd write an article for perceptions. If anyone heard me speak there you would have heard my views on the "treatment" I have received from my local mental health services. I'm not impressed. I think everyone who works in mental health should be given a virtual reality tour of what it is like to be a service user. Then they should imagine that it is them or a loved one who is that service user. Perhaps only then things might improve.

I thought I would write a potted history of my life leading up to, during and since my three stays in psychiatric hospitals. I soon realized it would not be an article but a book. There's just not room enough here to go into it all. I tried to think of another angle, "drugs I have known and used" (psychiatric ones I mean, we'll forget about the others for now) was a possibility. I soon realized I couldn't remember the names of all the different antipsychotics and antidepressants I have been on over the last four years. I made a mental note to ask at my next appointment with Dr F, the SHO I was seeing on the mental health team. Sure enough, at the beginning of August the appointment came round and I asked for the information that I required. Dr F did not have the information, I would be better off asking my GP. She told me it would be the last time she would be seeing me. Knowing this I told her that I was not impressed with the care I had received since becoming ill. I told her that I had never been offered any sort of counseling, and that I was looking into attending psychotherapy. She told me that I might be entitled to psychotherapy on the NHS, but that there was at least a year's wait. I said I would be interested and she promised to get me the forms that I needed to fill in. She made another appointment with me for 2pm Wednesday September 11th, explaining that if my new doctor couldn't make this time and date I would be informed.

The appointment comes round and I get to reception to be told the new doctor, Dr W-H has hurt his back and has cancelled his appointments. They did try to phone me at 8.30 that morning. I explain that I would have been taking my son to school at that time, and I did not appreciate a wasted six mile round trip. They are apologetic and tell me I will be sent a new appointment. I do 1471 on my phone when I get home, nobody had rung that day.

I write to Dr A, the psychiatrist I last saw 18 months ago, who is supposed to be overseeing my case. I tell him of my wasted journey and give him home, work and mobile numbers for future reference. I ask him about the forms for psychotherapy. I post the letter by hand when I am passing on Friday 13 th September.

I wait a week for a reply, none comes. At 12.30pm on Friday 20th I try to phone Dr A's secretary. She is at lunch until 1pm. The receptionist takes my name and phone number and says she will ask her to phone me back. At 2pm I phone again. The secretary says she has sent a letter of apology, I tell her I haven't received it. I ask if she has sent me a new appointment. She will have to get my file to check, can she phone me back? Of course, I say. What is my phone number? I tell her I have already given it when I phoned earlier. Yes, but it is in my file, what is my number? I give it again. She phones me back in five minutes, I have an appointment with Dr B the Monday coming, at 12.30pm. I explain that I work all day on Monday, are there any afternoon appointments later in the week? None of the doctors do afternoon appointments she tells me. I tell her that the last appointment that was cancelled had been an afternoon appointment, so surely Dr W-H did afternoon appointments on a Wednesday. No, no, none of them did afternoons. I tell her that I work every morning during the week, I can't leave to attend appointments (I'm a teaching assistant following lesson timetables) what am I supposed to do? Most people manage, she replies.

I have never met Dr B and am not likely to ever see him again, so do not think it worth attending on the Monday. He will have to read through my notes, will then talk to me for 15 minutes and then give me another appointment with my new doctor. I explain this to the secretary. She asks what I do want, as Dr W-H has no free appointments until mid October. At this point I remember about the forms that I need, did she know anything about them? No, but she is seeing Dr A later and will ask him.

I've had enough so don't bother to ask anything further.

To end on a more positive note, I spoke to my GP, he was happy for me to go in and read through my notes, I simply have to arrange a time with the practice manager. So my next piece might be " drugs I have known and used" or it could be instalment two of "mental health services make me mad!"