Mental health provision : a heart-rending story

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

There is a lot to unpack in this story.

We had just finished watching dramatic scenes on @TheBlock 2017 (#renovators highly recommend!), getting all tucked up into bed, when I heard a young woman crying outside our window.

Living in a town centre, this sort of thing was not unusual. She was on a video call to someone too, so we assumed there had maybe been a breakdown in some sort of relationship – family or otherwise.

Around five minutes passed and we were still aware of her being outside, and grew more concerned for her welfare.

At this point a group of three, as it turned out, harmless, drunk men started speaking to her as she was still clearly upset.

My partner swooped in at this point and brought her into our flat. The men had very quickly understood that we were in a better position to help her and quickly scuttled off home!

She was very distressed and had a lot of self harm marks on her thighs, had drunk a bottle of vodka round her friend’s house, but lives alone.

“I just don’t want to be here anymore” is a phrase that I hear all to often these days.

We ascertained who she was, and learned she actually lived a few doors up. But we couldn’t just let her go. Not with what she’d said to us.

She had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, depression and anxiety – all at the ripe old age of 22.

I called the ambulance service and answered all of the questions, detailing all we knew of her situation. She clearly was not an imminent risk to herself or others, so was not a priority.

I was given a reference number and asked to wait for a call back from a mental health nurse.

While we waited there was nothing more to do than to console and make small talk with her.

Apparently she makes a cracking gateaux and an even better cheesecake! She’d been to catering college and said she really enjoyed it.

Also turns out I put cream on a scone the wrong way.

She wasn’t keen on the idea of going to hospital, apparently having gone two weeks before.

“They’ll just take my bloods, take my blood pressure, assess that I’m not going to do anything and send me home.”

She now tells us she’d planned to hang herself or take an overdose.

Now we really couldn’t let her go.

This new information seemed like a good reason to dial the 9’s again to update them, with our reference number.

An hour had passed since our original phone call. Still no call back from a mental health nurse.

This time speaking to my partner, after getting past the initial “is the person breathing” question, she gave the reference number wanting to update the service with our new information – and also check on the status of the call back from the mental health nurse.

The ambulance service proceeded to ask identical questions to the previous operator.

What exactly was the point of having a reference number?

The woman escalated the call, due to the young woman becoming increasingly lethargic due to the alcohol.

It isn’t until 01:30 that the mental health nurse calls, some 2 hours after our initial phone call.

I can’t state this in clearer terms. This woman was a chocolate fireguard. Useless.

SURPRISE! She asked the same questions as both the others had, including questions about any pools of blood, fresh self harm marks and mental state.

At this point I was beginning to feel this young woman’s frustration. So much of this so far felt so emotionless.

To add insult to injury, the tone was so incredibly condescending and patronising.

We helped cajole her into willingly going to hospital to see someone.

Ambulance wait time? Two hours. At close to 2am on a Monday morning.

Looks like we’re getting changed out of our pyjamas then!

The nurse sent through all the details of the conversations we had to the JR @OUHospitals

While I empty the car, my partner walks her to her house. She wants to take one of her tablets that she has not been taking.

My partner says there were vodka bottles everywhere in her flat, which was generally in disarray.

She proceeded to try and take 6 of her tablets in front of my partner; at least confirming our worries around letting her go home alone.

From here on in, she opened up a lot more. It’s amazing what a car journey can do.

Somehow we got onto the police and how they are all “racist” “homophobic” “bastards”

The surprise on her face when she discovered my partner is a trained police officer!

I hope that even this #actofkindess begins to change her outlook on the police that her doom scrolling of social media, in her one-bedroom flat, has helped create.

She truly believed that police, as a whole, wilfully treat people differently based on the colour of their skin; something that my partner can attest has not happened in her 5 years working within @ThamesVP

I drop them off at A&E and go to park.

As I walk in, the young woman is walking out to go for a cigarette with an older, clearly very drunk man.

At the check in desk we learn that the nurse had NOT sent through the details as she said she would. So we explained for the fourth time.

When the receptionist realised we were of no relation to her and didn’t even know her three hours ago, she wanted to take her through straight away, which would allow us to leave – having done all that we can.

We both went outside to get her, to find her walking away with that equally troubled old man.

She didn’t want to come back in initially, but my partner physically forced her to come with us, leaving the man to walk off on his own.

On the way back in she started to break down again and disclosed that she was sexually assaulted by her father when she was 8 years old and again by a stranger when she was older.

#Trauma can never be compared, especially that which occurred as a child, but I had a similar experience, also with a family member (albeit not close family), so couldn’t ignore the juxtaposition of our two life experiences.

The power of a supportive #family and wider network rang true more than ever. I was brought up to believe in myself, and with that came an understanding that you cannot let something out of your control define you.

It was clear that from this point in her life that she had been let down by so many people, on so many levels. The mental health system was not what it is now 14 years ago. I was in school myself back then.

But, it’s clear she didn’t receive any therapy, and at that point was thrust into the foster system and began to truant a lot from school

Just as she finished her cigarette she made a dash for it, forcing us to restrain and drag her through the waiting room onto the ward.

In pieces, and on the floor; the restraint had gone and turned into her clasping my hand. At this point I looked at her and queitly assured her that I understood, and that it can get better.

She couldn’t believe that I could ever have gone through anything like she had – this was clear from her facial expression. And yet, you could tell, it offered some hope.

Eventually we got her onto a bed and the “this is pointless” started to come back, as the routine she had spoke of was beginning; although the doctor being unable to tell a bruise from a hickey did make her giggle.

In the long breaks between being seen, her fractured psyche became even more apparent.

She was “mostly gay” whereby she is attracted to women but wishes she wasn’t attracted to men. She identified as non-binary but interestingly was happy with he/him/they/them/it pronouns. She said she would think about transitioning in the future but would not ever like bottom surgery.

I’m no psychotherapist but that reeks of detesting her female body, whilst also detesting the male anatomy.

After a bit more hustle and bustle with the hospital security staff citing her”either detain and section me or let me go”, she began to settle and wanted to snooze, with the lights off and a nurse watching the door. My partner explained the situation, for the fifth time, now to a nurse.

We were able to leave – but not without saying goodbye, letting her know that the hospital has our number and that we look forward to seeing her on our street again soon.

At 5am a McDonald’s breakfast was needed more than ever.

Last night cemented my belief more than ever that we need a more communitarian outlook in society that @SDPhq @WilliamClouston @IanWoodley6 @SDPyouthUK @Wayne_Dixon @KPomlett @brilantbk @Whetstonesdp @LiddleRod @oflynnsocial @admcollingwood @FriendsSdp and others speak of.

Moreover the work that @JamesEsses @SexMattersOrg @Transgendertrd and others strive to move into public discourse. So much of this woman’s state of mind and situation clearly stems from a childhood trauma.

It was clear she did not feel useful in society, less so wanted, and that is heart-breaking. She feels lost and forgotten by so many parts of it, and there must be a way to fix this for her sake any many, many others.

This was a situation where there was so much to unpack, and I hope I have done it justice. In many ways she exemplifies many of the problems of our time.

Originally tweeted by Chris Morrison (@PragmaticPicks) on 03/08/2021.