[note: this post contains discussion of self-harm]
I had debated writing a post on the previous episode of this series after watching them conducting an interview with an alcoholic. I was feeling really sorry for him as he explained he'd been at University studying Dentistry when his drinking spiralled out of control. I felt complete empathy for him as I felt life was going so well and normal before that first overdose. And then he said to the interviewer that he didn't want to be known as a 'self-harmer' and showed the camera his scars and then out of nowhere he grabbed a knife and did two more cuts. ON CAMERA! I talked to my best-friend about it and we both had a similar opinion that showing something like that wouldn't be helpful for mental health stigma. It made it appear that 'cutters' just impulsively pick up a sharp and cut without caring who can see. This is often the exact opposite and most people who I've met that self-harm, do it in private and enjoy the planning and organisation of it.
Anyway, as this episode stuck in my head it occurred to me they hadn't had an episode on mental health and then here it is...
It was interesting that the first callout featured was a man on top of a multi-storey car park, the caller called the call-handler 'duck' and then the boy called the paramedic it so it made me wonder if he'd called 999 himself because he admitted to the paramedic that something stopping him was the worry it would paralyse him and not kill him. In the end, a Police Negotiator talked him down from the edge.
I liked that one of the paramedics said these type of callouts include rich and poor people; it's helpful to show that there's no single 'set' of people who are affected by ill mental health.
It was nice (if that's the right word) to see this man's daughter looking out for him and then hearing the paramedic's personal experience of having a parent with ill mental health. I think when they have some sort of personal experience with MH it makes them that much more empathetic and understanding. Especially, as one of the paramedics admitted that the hardest jobs they get are mental health ones and that they don't get nearly enough training on it. It showed that sometimes, even though they're the first to be called- and often the first on scene, all they can really do in most situations is transport the person to the right help.
It really annoyed me when a call-handler was trying to spell Schizophrenic because 'mad' isn't 'politically correct'... Perhaps that's for a reason Mrs Random call-handler! If someone was asthmatic you wouldn't call them a 'cougher' - why should mental health not have the right labels?
I especially loved this quote from Martyn who had Schizophrenia and was trying to describe his hallucinations:
"You can see them, you know they're not real, you know that no one else can see them but to you... They're the worst thing in the world"
I liked that one of the paramedics, in an interview, said that the fact someone can cause so much pain to themselves means things must be really crap. She joked that getting her eyebrows waxed hurts her enough and couldn't imagine picking up a knife to cut herself. It's nice to hear that sort of acknowledgement that you are in such a dark place when you self-harm.
It was sad (but not all that surprising) to hear that Martyn and the man who'd cut weren't admitted and both self-harmed within weeks of their trips to A&E. It makes you wonder if anyone really looks into that sort of thing. I mean, if someone committed suicide there'd be an enquiry into their death so why not with a repetition of self-harm or deterioration in mental health? I'd be interested to know how many cases of people assessed under the Mental Health Act and NOT admitted and then again self-harm or attempt suicide, have their assessors questioned? Because really, if they'd admitted the person at the assessment, the next episode of self-harm might have been prevented.
It was so interesting to see Martyn talking to his five year old as she told him she had an imaginary friend and straight away he panicked she had his same condition. I've always felt a bit foolish when a friend has said they were feeling sad or something and I've panicked they were going to self-harm or overdose because that might have been my reaction to the same situation, now I can see I'm not alone in that.
I liked Martyn's description of his ill mental health and that on a good day his brain is like a 'rainbow' and it's all lovely and colourful and everything's in the right place and order and when it's a bad day all the colours are mixed up and 'wishy-washy.'
1,711 mental health beds have been closed since 2011. That's one thousand, seven hundred and eleven people suffering, unsafe and alone.