Shelby Bates: Medication

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This story has a trigger warning

Shelby Bates shares a personal account of what medication can mean to someone suffering from a mental illness.

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In my head, the term ‘medication’ has a vast majority of meanings. It can be any type of medicine that you use to treat a disease or illness. There are so many different types of medication that can be used to help someone suffering from a mental illness but there is a serious lack of resource available.

I am 22 years old, I suffer from major depressive disorder and anxiety, and I am treated by a psychiatrist who, over the last 4 years, has prescribed at least 8 different anti-depressants with the common ideal and desire, to overcome my illness. However, I am still trying to find the right balance of medication. There are so many side effects involved that everyday life becomes a blur and a struggle, meaning you begin to forget that they are actually meant to be helping you.

Tablets aren’t the only means of ‘medication’ for mental health, a very popular route is talking therapy. Talking therapy involves talking about problems with a trained professional. 18 months ago my psychiatrist referred me for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). In March 2016 I had an initial assessment to ensure it was something I would really benefit from. Do you know how many ‘sessions’ I have had since then? Zilch. Zero. Absolutely nothing. I am on a never ending waiting list and there is nothing I can do about it. I’ve called multiple times to see how much longer I have to wait, and each time I am told by a rather rude and unsympathetic receptionist that they cannot give me an actual date, and it’ll be “a few months”. You get to the point of wanting to give up. The people around you just tell you to hold on a little longer, they say the CBT will begin soon. I used to believe that and let it motivate me but not anymore. How long should a person have to wait?

Apparently, the reason for the long delay is that the mental health team in my area is short staffed but that they are hoping to hire some new people soon. It’s been over 18 months, and I’ve had nothing. This treatment is a significant part of many people’s lives and I honestly believe that for some unfortunate ones who are desperately seeking help, it could be a matter of life or death. I don’t think many people actually understand this. Theresa May herself stated that “the economic and social cost of mental illness is £105 billion, roughly the same as we spend on the NHS in its entirety”. These figures are so frustrating. We’re constantly hearing that the Government wants to do more to raise awareness of, and support, mental health but the improvements are slow. From a personal point of view, I’ve seen no improvements in my local area. If anything, things are getting worse.

People who suffer with anxiety will know how hard it can be to open up to someone and share the fears that manifest within your own mind. I have a good relationship with my psychiatrist as of now, although I struggled to communicate with him in the beginning. It wasn’t until he became a regular staple in my life that I felt truly comfortable talking to him. However, at my last appointment he told me that he was being moved to another area within the Trust so he would not be able to see me anymore. To many of you reading this you might think that this isn’t anything significant to stress over but, to me, it’s awful. My anxiety soared to a new high as I realised that I would have to start over again with someone new and unfamiliar.

The announcement of the upcoming General Election signifies that it is time to change the NHS Trust with regards to mental health treatment. My own experiences over the last year or so have made me realise how true this really is. The Government needs to do more to save, improve, make some form of difference to people suffering from a mental illness.

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