Monday, December 09, 2013

Depression #2

There's RUOK day, there's the famous mental health charities with famous founders, there are the Order of Australia awards, and there's the public adulation. 

Then there's the suicidal friend. Right now, with medication, we can talk without me having to worry that I'm picking the wrong words and making things worse and triggering the knife or the pills.

Today, I was a bit gratified at a turn the conversation took.

“Richard, shut up.”

“But ...”

“No, shut up. Shut up. Shut up means don't talk. Count to five without talking.”

So I counted to five. Slightly too slowly, because I missed the opening …

“See, you didn't know what you were saying next, and it made you stutter. I've known you since we were fifteen, and it's always given me the shits. Just slow down sometimes and you won't stutter.”

Which is right: I get like that, lost in the sentence, all the nouns fleeing my mental grasp like the mozzie you're trying to whack in the dark, and I'd fear it was Alzheimer's except that I really have always been like this.

So I was grinning at my end of the conversation, that my friend has recovered enough conversation and confidence to tell me to shut up.

So the next thing I said was, “It was bloody marvellous to hear you tell me to shut up. Now, when's the appointment with the counsellor?”

The conversation got difficult again. Four weeks after a GP agreeing that help was needed, and the same GP promising to do his best to get things moving, and writing an emergency prescription for strong anti-depressants to get through the wait, the only thing now known is which facility can fit my friend in, and the name of the counsellor.

The date? Well, you know, it's a difficult time of year, and Christmas is coming, and there's probably a counsellor on leave because they have to take leave as well, and really we don't know.

And that's good enough?

In the country of “RUOK” and “get help”, help is at the other end of an indeterminable wait list? - No, that's not good enough.

Someone else I know well was referred to a BMRI doctor – Brain and Mind Research Institute to its friends, but I'm not one of them and never will be – by their psychiatrist, but got fobbed off by the receptionist with “we will review the referral and call you back”.

The bloody receptionist acted as the road-block.

That was in January. The call-back never came. Calls were made to follow things up: it never got past the receptionist. The individual in question eventually abandoned medications, thankfully without incident, and is doing just fine, again thankfully.

The third aspect of this post comes from the ABC: “Australia second in world in anti-depressant prescriptions”.

No kidding.

A GP, looking at someone threatening suicide in the consulting room, has to act, must act, and with no prospect of immediate help, the GP prescribes pills for a crisis, and that is becoming the public crisis instead of the lamentable lack of mental health services... sorry, I'm ranting.

Help is not on its way. Help is somewhere out there, queued up, under-resourced, dealing with last month's urgent cases, dealing with last night's hospital admissions, and so on.

It's all very well for high-profile case histories to be paraded for their success, to teach people the “get help” message, and to incidentally solicit donations via radio-appearances from Famous Australians Doing Good in the World.

It's quite another for people who desperately need help to have to resort to call-a-friend to stop them using the knife or pills, and keep them talking for an hour or so until they find the strength to cook a meal for their family (which in the case close to me includes one disabled child) and take themselves to bed.

The friend I have in mind brought up her children, including the one with a disability, and stayed employed until, over the age of fifty, the last factory in the region closed a while back. I guess the unemployment plus the disability of the child, plus the prospect of a lonely future …

Shit, it would be too much for me. Ms T's illness hasn't broken me, although it's come close. And I have already told you that I suffer from depression.

But here's the thing.

Ms T was desperately ill, when her condition took her to hospital. She was admitted immediately, and kept until there until there was a diagnosis and she was fit to be sent home and there was a treatment regime in place.

The friend I'm thinking of was so close to death that hospital was needed for the self-harm, let alone the mental state. Discharge was next day, and the treatment regime is still on hold.

That sucks. A mental illness can be life-threatening, and no amount of moralising changes that. In the case I'm talking about, a suicide would leave a disabled young adult without a connection to the world, not to mention the ripple effects.

I'm not – absolutely and utterly not – anyone's Best Last Hope in a mental health crisis. My sole qualification is, as I mentioned, that I am intimately familiar with depression.

While I'm happy – wrong word, find a better one yourself – to offer myself to help a friend cope, it doesn't come without cost on my part. But I have a support network of people who treasure me even when I'm an utter shit (Ms T, I'm looking at you, and you love and treasure the others that also help), and I have to pass on their strength because that's what you do.

But hearing famous people telling we at the bottom of the pile that we need to get help that isn't available in a crisis?

It shits me to tears.

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