Rant about NHS mental health support

Please just indulge me this rant, without any overwhelming flurry of concerned personal messages. I’m basically OK today, and about to get stuck into some rock painting.

This rant concerns NHS mental health services for adults in my area (Worcestershire).

In the months following my son’s death last April, I realised I require some specialist mental health support, over and above standard bereavement counselling. It’s not just about grief and loss, also the abject horror of what happened and my lack of skills to healthily process trauma.

Party due to my neurology, I don’t grieve in a typical way. I have alexithymia, which means it can be difficult for me to notice and express my feelings. They brew below the calm surface, like a tidal wave. I can compartmentalise and lock difficult things away in a box marked “danger: don’t open”.

I still get pleasure from things I enjoy, and I’m still excitable, but I can swing from OK to broken in seconds. Pychological triggers hit me like a bus, when I’m otherwise OK and often in the middle of something. These triggers could be images or words or music. Intrusive detailed mental images really take me down. I have a vivid mind’s eye, which is both a gift and a curse. Lucid dreams too, with delayed wrench back to reality upon waking.

I went to my GP last April and he suggested I refer to Worcestershire Healthy Minds, which I did in early May. The triage appointment, a telephone consultation, took place in June. I explained what I was going through, but my case clearly wasn’t considered high priority (I wasn’t a danger to myself or others). I was basically OK in June, but by mid-July I was at rock bottom. I was triggered in the middle of a song, in the middle of a choir performance in front of an audience. The trigger, singing Somewhere Only we Know, I remembered my son should have been on his DofE expedition that day.

Finally in December and January I had six sessions of counselling. This was very generic counselling, not specific to trauma. It was easy to steer the conversation away from the traumas I need to process, helpful yet quite superficial. That counselling is now concluded, and I haven’t yet had specialist support with dealing with the sheer abject horror of what happened and what I have been through. The counsellor agreed to refer me to their advanced support team.

I’ve since had a letter inviting me to attend a group psychological skills course, in September. This letter indicated that if I don’t phone them to book onto the course, they would close my case and return me to the care of my GP. Confused much, because this seems like a backward step, I talked to my husband (who is less phone shy than me) and he phoned them on my behalf. They said I have to do this course before I can access any further 1:1 support. He can come along, but not participate (note: neither the GP nor Healthy Minds have ever asked him if he’s ok or needs any professional support).

This course is 6 x 2 hour group sessions starting in September. I assume there will be a further waiting list after that, before accessing any further 1:1 support.

Of course, they do have a crisis team I can apparently contact if I need more urgent support. It’s pretty clear to me that “crisis” only applies when people are a risk to themselves or others. Hmmm… am I likely to admit that, as a mother with two young daughters? I don’t think so. The crisis service also requires a phone call. How many autistic people in a mental health crisis are able to pick up the phone? I had a meltdown last night in which I could barely string a sentence together.

Thank heavens I am privileged to have some great friends and family, who can support me better this. I’m acutely aware that many autistic adults are far more isolated than I am.

I’m convinced that what I actually need is EMDR for cPTSD, but I guess I’ll have to go private to get that. I’ll still go to this psychological skills course, as it may be useful for my mental health advocacy, and I don’t want Worcestershire Healthy Minds to close my case.

Particularly looking forward to attending their 2 hour session about trauma and loss… on what would have been my son’s 17 birthday!

Author: Charlie Hart

Late-diagnosed autistic working mum, attempting to write an amusing semi-autobiographical novel with a twist.

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