Winning competition entry: Jim’s story

In February 2017 we launched a competition calling for, among other things, frugal and realistic ideas with meaningful storytelling. Our independent panel of judges voted, and on March 22nd we awarded Jim Millns the top prize for this entry. TRIGGER WARNING: This story discusses suicide and psychotic episodes.  If you’d like to be involved in making this idea real,  please add your comments at the end of the story.

I love my wife, she’s my best friend. We’re generally happy and have a lovely family. For the majority of our married life however my wife has battled with psychotic depression. It still makes me sad to think about the suffering she must have experienced over the years. To see someone you love dearly hurting so badly, particularly when there’s little you can practically do, is something I never want anyone to experience. Sadly however I know that some people will.

The first few months of 2016 were the lowest point for my wife, she had two attempts at taking her own life, the second of which resulted in her being admitted to hospital and spending 48 hours on the intensive care unit. It was at the beginning of March 2016 however when things really got bad – for both my wife and me. Now I don’t necessarily want sympathy at this point, but the night my wife had a major psychotic episode fuelled by a litre of vodka was the one time in my married life that I was genuinely scared of her. I was also concerned for the safety of my daughter. Of course in hindsight I know it was the illness, but at the time I would describe her behaviour as volatile, aggressive and ‘evil’. For a 3-4 hour period she stopped being the person I loved.

It quickly became apparent that I needed help and I attempted, unsuccessfully, to contact the home treatment team. I then dialled ‘999’ and ‘due to the potential for violence’ was routed through to the police. The two officers that attended were great, and if they’re reading this for whatever reason and recognise the story, I truly thank you. However the police weren’t able to stay all night and having calmed the situation down they left, at which point my wife’s the aggression and volatility almost immediately returned. She did eventually drink herself to sleep and the following morning the home treatment team arranged for her to access the crisis house.

Whilst I can’t begin to imagine the horror that my wife experienced that night; what was clear from my perspective was the lack of support offered to me and my family both during the episode and immediately afterwards. I do have a very close wider family and a good network of friends, but I didn’t feel I could involve them in something that they might not understand. What I needed was to be able to ring someone with experience of caring for someone with mental health issues, who could ‘lend a helping hand’, either in the form of advice, a safe place to stay for an hour or two or in extreme cases provide hands-on support. On that night in March 2016 I needed some of all these things.

My proposal therefore is simple – to create a network of volunteers to provide support on a 24hr rota basis to other carers who might be struggling. This could involve hands-on support (acknowledging safety issues) through to a coffee and a chat. This should be supported a dedicated telephone number plus expenses for those on low incomes.

There, that’s it, a simple low cost idea that for me would have been a lifeline. I should add at this point that my wife is now in recovery and my daughter and I continue to have a good relationship with her. I still love her and she continues to be my best friend. At the time her illness was at its worst, however, I needed a friend who understood what I was going through.

5 Comments

  • LizzyD

    Jim, I absolutely agree, I think your idea is excellent.
    I work full time but there seems to be little in the way of support/activities for those of us who are working. The chance for a cuppa on a weekend or evening which could help others who may need some support is much needed ( in my opinion).
    I hope your idea is taken forward and thank you so much for sharing your story.

    Lizzy

  • James Poulter

    I think that a support network for people caring for those with psychosis is an excellent idea. I look forward to seeing how this project grows and develops. All the very best.

  • Kat Easton

    Hi Jim
    I was one of the judges for this competition. Thank you for sharing your story and for making the steps to make a change for others!

    I would be happy to support your idea – I work full time in Mental health research so I can offer my skills to help try and access funding for the idea and evaluate it if needed. But I would also be interested in manning a phone line for a few hours a week is appropriate.

    Best wishes Katherine

  • Chris Blackmore

    Hi Jim,
    Thanks for this – I was very touched by your story and I think a support network for carers would be such a great idea. I am a colleague of Kat Easton’s at the University of Sheffield, and will chat to her about your idea.
    Best wishes,
    Chris

  • Bumble

    Hi Jim. Thank you for sharing with such honesty. Your idea is excellent. I think mental health support is terribly under funded, but I think regardless of social care funding, you’re right that we as people and communities could be supporting one another better. There’s too many isolated people experiencing similar things. It’s madness not to reach out and support one another.

    Services may be letting us down due to lack of funding, but I believe the true revolution could come from within. We in our communities can connect and support each other regardless.

    I wish you all the best.

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