You trip up whilst out shopping and your arm feels broken. What do you do?
You contract a nasty virus that brings you out in a horrible patchy rash all over your face. Where do you go?
You experience severe abdominal pain – it could be gallstones. Who do you call?
You cut your leg very badly after a tough tackle playing rugby in the park – what do your friends do?
You would think that it’s a no brainer, right?
Of course, you wouldn’t have any hesitation in heading straight to your local A&E department.
Admittedly, you could be waiting around for a few hours after being put through triage, but generally you would be seen on the same day. You would probably have tests to determine the extent of your injury/illness, and you might see a specialist consultant, depending upon your condition. You may be either be admitted into the hospital for a stay, or after being patched up you’d be sent home (probably with a follow-up appointment booked in for a couple of days).
But what happens if your illness is not tangible like a broken arm or a rash, but instead, is a mental illness? This article highlights the recent tragic case of Nicky Sullivan, 44, who desperately sought help at North Manchester General.
Mr Sullivan, who was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic and had been admitted to hospital 27 times, was suicidal. Yet he was forced to wait 80 minutes without seeing any medical staff. Not even a triage nurse, despite UK Government guidelines that triage should happen within fifteen minutes of arrival at an Accident &Emergency department.
Mr Sullivan was killed running into a busy road later that day.
My mental health issues are of course different to those of Mr Sullivan’s, but I know first-hand what it is like to be having a crisis, and how hard it is when the help you so desperately need is delayed.
Rewind to a few years ago, and I was in the same situation as Mr Sullivan. With thoughts of suicide I went to my local A&E, and I waited hours to be seen. An extract from my account of that day in the book ‘Pulling the Trigger: OCD, Anxiety and Related Depression – the definitive recovery and survival approach’ explains…
“In the middle of my last major episode of anxiety and panic, which resulted in me contemplating suicide, I’d attended the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department of my local hospital, desperately begging them for help. The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) being what it is, the A&E department simply didn’t have the resources within its mental health service to do something for me there and then. I felt like I was going crazy and wished someone could put me into a deep sleep that would last a year or more. I just didn’t want to exist anymore through this acute mental torment I was suffering from.
When I stood on that bridge, staring at the train tracks below and wondering if I had the courage to jump, I was at my lowest ebb. ‘If I can’t beat this now,’ I thought, ‘I never will.’ And this was from the man who had everything to live for, and many of the things other people may envy. This wasn’t a cry for help; I was deadly serious about ending it all. I was in an extremely desperate state of mind, but equally I was rational in my thinking when it came to suicide. I didn’t jump that day. I was almost convinced it was the right thing to do. But something – a tiny bit of hope, perhaps – stopped me from going over the edge. After that day, I told myself that if I got better I would somehow help other people suffering from the anxiety and OCD which had crippled me. At that stage I realised that only by taking matters into my own hands would I start to recover. I make no criticism of the NHS in the UK; it provides an excellent service within its budget. But I needed help there and then, and luckily I was in a position to fund such assistance myself. I realise that many others aren’t able to do this, which is why I made the vow to help my fellow sufferers and their families”.
Today, I stand by the vow I made whilst at my lowest ebb, to help fellow sufferers and their families through The Shaw Mind Foundation. The main objective of our charity is to support anyone who may have lost hope; both the sufferer and those who support them. We want to ensure treatment and support is made available to everyone.
I believe that recovery is possible for many who are not currently receiving the help they need. The Shaw Mind Foundation strives to help those who continue to slip through the net, like Nicky Sullivan, all because they have to wait for care, or they don’t have funds to access life-saving treatment privately.
The NHS does a fantastic job within the budget they have been allocated, but we must encourage the Government to place more investment in mental health services to further support their under-resourced and over-stretched staff.