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The Obstacle to Mental Illness Treatment We Need to Talk About

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Mental illness can take an incredible toll on someone’s life. Whether it be mania, depression, anxiety, psychosis or any number of different disorders, one of the hardest things to do is reach out for help. But one thing all of us who fight daily with this can agree on is how important it is to seek support. The level of courage, bravery, vulnerability and mental exertion it takes to seek that help is astounding. But something that isn’t spoken about much is how the lengthy time it can take to get psychiatric support can be incredibly dangerous.

The first severe episode I had, which prompted my diagnosis, lasted months. I was extremely depressed and flipping between catatonic, hysterical and suicidal. After having to quit my job and not being able to leave my room for two months, the cyclical nature of my disease finally kicked in and I was beginning to come up from the state I was in. However, I was by no means stable. It was at around this time I decided that if I was going to survive, I needed help.

Frustrating and soul crushing does not even begin to describe this process I was about to embark on. I am very thankful to have a supportive family who was there for me every step of the way, but I was in need of medical attention. My first stop was my general practitioner (GP). Your GP is an excellent resource and touchpoint, and contacting them is an amazing first step to take. From here I was referred to a psychologist and a psychiatrist. Now for those struggling with money or support in Australia, your GP can often put you on a mental health care plan which refers you to psychologists. The issue at this stage is access to a psychiatrist, which can be crucial for some mood disorders as a proper diagnosis, therapy and medication is an effective and common form of treatment for many mental illnesses. However, public waiting lists are astoundingly long, and even going through the private sector as I did can mean months of waiting before an available appointment.

When you are finally ready to reach out for help only to be told to wait four months is devastating. After gaining the courage to seek help and finding the energy to organize appointments and look for doctors, it’s common to feel angry and frustrated. It feels like an impossible situation though as these doctors do amazing work for an infinite number of people with only a finite amount of time. But when you are in a mindset similar to one I was in, it can feel like no one is helping you. This was a very dangerous time for me and it even began to worsen some of the depressive thoughts I was having. I started to think, “Well what’s the point?” And, “I tried, but I can’t wait that long.” I was constantly bombarded with messages to seek help and reach out, but when I was told it would be months before that help would come — well, it felt like bullshit. But I can promise as hard as it was and as bad as I felt, waiting was the best thing I ever did.

And while the wait time can be grueling, there are a number of resources and organizations out there whose purposes are to help you through that time. So, to anyone struggling, please reach out to your GP, family, teachers, friends or mental health hotlines which are invaluable resources I myself have used many times. After years of learning and coping, I have learned you have to be the one to change your circumstances and help yourself, but sometimes it is just not possible to do it alone. Sometimes you need help saving yourself. And I promise, there are always people out there who want to help.

Getty image by coffeekai

Originally published: October 15, 2019
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