“My daughter, Frances, developed severe clinical depression when she was in her second year at university, aged 20. She started to self harm, cutting her arms and 3 months later attempted to take her own life by taking an overdose of paracetamol. She was taken to the general hospital in Derby and was released to us 3 days later with no follow up treatment of any kind. The depression continued and we were constantly terrified that she would attempt to take her own life again. She moved backwards and forwards between Derby and home for several months, still clearly very unwell, and was eventually admitted to a psychiatric ward in Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge (fortunately now closed down) where she only stayed 5 days as she was badly bullied by a psychiatric nurse and forbidden to access either food or drink unless she went to the dining area, which her catatonic depression and severe distress prevented her from doing.
After leaving the hospital, she was offered no further treatment and was not even assigned a CPN. We continued struggling for 3 more years, desperately trying to get the appropriate help for my daughter to survive and cope with the debilitating depression. In 2006 Frances became very severely depressed again and came home after splitting up with her boyfriend, leaving her extremely fragile and deeply depressed. My husband checked the memory on our computer and found out that Frances was actively researching suicide sites. I called our G.P practice and begged for an appointment for her with our G.P, who had been very understanding when we were able to access her. I had complained numerous times that it was often impossible to get an appointment with our G.P as one of the women on reception always insisted that Frances should see whoever was available and she repeatedly refused to give her access to our G.P. On that fateful day, 6 June, 2007, access was once again denied and Frances was given an appointment with another doctor. I went with Frances, as she was catatonic at this stage, and begged the G.P to refer her to hospital. I stressed, repeatedly, that Frances had already made a serious attempt to take her own life and was currently researching suicide sites on our computer. Despite my entreaties, the G.P insisted that Frances should have a prescription for a halved dose of anti depressant, prior to changing it to another one, and sent her away with a leaflet on counselling. Only 5 days later on 12 June 2007, Frances attempted to hang herself. She survived after 6 months in hospital and was left with a severe brain injury, unable to do anything for herself and requiring 24/7 care at a huge cost to Social Care and the NHS.
Frances lived a life with very little quality for a further 9 years and died this year of breast cancer.
I have actively campaigned for many years to improve mental health provision, especially for young people, who are most at risk. I have helped Papyrus and the Samaritans with media work and research and also campaigned for Headway. Over the past 9 years, I have listened to countless parents telling me their story and I have learned that my daughters experience with a G.P, just before attempting or completing suicide is sadly very common. All doctors, and particularly G.P’s, should have a mandatory day’s training on suicide awareness. The training for doctors is long and rigorous, but currently has nothing with regard to suicide prevention. As G.Ps are the gatekeepers of the nation’s health, and are usually the first point of health care access, it is particularly essential that this training becomes mandatory.”
Just one days training in suicide awareness for all doctors could potentially save thousands of lives every year. Teachers, too, would benefit from this training and young people in secondary schools should be taught about mental health, how to protect themselves and to feel able to confide in a trusted adult if they self harm and or have suicidal thoughts. As a teacher, myself, I am well aware of the considerable emphasis on physical health, taught as part of the PSHE curriculum, at primary and secondary schools, but there is nothing in the current national curriculum regarding safe- guarding mental health and so the stigma still remains. Many young men, in particular, suffer from severe and devastating depression, yet tell no-one except,their G.P that they have thoughts of self-harm and suicide. Their parents and families often say that they had no idea that their son or daughter was suicidal until it was too late.” – RW
Another lone voice in the dark joining up. Watch out for the big clang. It’s coming. It’s long overdue. We will be heard. I promise you Saagar. Things will have to change.