Crisis care too late?
Posted Friday 2 December 2011
Last week saw the launch of our report on acute and crisis care. Here, Catherine describes the delays that stopped her from getting help when she needed it most.
Trigger warning - this post discusses suicide and readers may find some sections distressing.
My first impression of UK crisis care was the crescendo in mental distress that I had to suffer before I could access it.
I showed my first symptoms of hypomania just days after starting on a combination of antidepressants that had been prescribed by a locum GP.
I returned to my GP and must have had good insight because I actually described what I was experiencing as a bipolar high.
An urgent referral was made for me to see a psychiatrist but unfortunately this referral was never processed as it was deleted at the surgery in error.
A few months later, when I had reached the early stages of manic psychosis, a worried friend took me to the GP surgery.
I could not see my usual GP, who knew me well, so I had an appointment with another GP from the group practice and was sent away with sleeping pills.
My husband took me back the next week. By this time I was delusional and convinced I was a secret genius.
My GP recognised the signs of psychosis and prescribed me an antipsychotic and sedative, and promised that she would help get me some urgent psychiatric attention.
That evening, the psychosis finally overwhelmed me. I spent the night awake with the most heartbreaking hallucinations.
At one stage, while in bed having taken my doctor’s prescription, I hallucinated that my husband was beating my son to death and I could only lie there listening to the screams and blows.
In my floridly psychotic state, I thought that my doctor had told my husband that to save me he must re-enact with my son what my father had done to me.
That experience of listening to my son die was utterly real to me at the time.
The next morning, I was taken to the GP surgery for the fourth time since the ordeal began.
By this point, I was hallucinating and raving incoherently, unable to communicate or understand speech.
My GP recommended that I be sectioned for my own safety as I had been making some bungled attempts at suicide.
My husband took me to the local community mental health team where I was assessed.
In a parallel reality, I believed that I was dead and the healthcare professionals were trying to bring me back to life. Still help was not immediate.
The staff struggled for hours to find me a hospital bed because there were none available locally and I got increasingly agitated as the wait continued.
Eventually, I had to be heavily tranquilized before being taken, semi-conscious and strapped to a stretcher, to a psychiatric hospital in a neighbouring town.
Once I was finally able to access crisis care, the treatment I received was generally good and I eventually made a full recovery.
However, I don't think it was necessary for me to suffer so much before I got the help I needed and I'd like to see immediate access to crisis care become standard in the future.
Catherine has written a book called Psychosis through my eyes, visit YouTube to hear an extract.
Excellent crisis care exists, but we need it everywhere, for everyone. Support our campaign, take action now.
Commenting is now closed.