High Risk doesn’t mean Help

I’ve written before about mental health services in New Zealand, and about my own health.

I talked about how there are three “stages” of coping with mental health.

For me, and for others judging by my research, there are around three different degrees of managing mental illness.  One is when you are coping fine. You consider yourself stable, and you have the support you need. Two is when things become harder and you need more help – perhaps increased therapy and/or medication. You might have thoughts of self harm. You might feel like you’re not really stable or coping. Three is when things become unsafe. When your illness has overwhelmed you. When you seriously consider, and or attempt, self harm,

It is easiest to get the help you need during stage One. You’re capable of being on waiting lists for therapy. You’re capable of changing medications if need be.

During Two, things get more difficult. You need support more urgently. But because you’re not quite suicidal, you may not get it. And because of the stigma involved in asking, you may not ask.

Then you hit Three. At this point, urgent care can be accessed. But my own experiences and my research show that too often, it’s too little, too late.

I’ll be honest, I spend quite a bit of time in Stage Two, and I know many others who live there constantly.

In my current situation, I can’t afford private counselling. There are a few free counselling services available in Nelson, but because of demand, they can only offer limited sessions. Given that I can use up to three sessions just telling my story and providing the counsellor with the background they need to be helpful to me, this is not enough. I’m grateful that the service is there at all, but for me to make real progress, I would need substantial support, something beyond a few one hour meetings.

This week I saw my doctor. We discussed my mental health, and he did a questionnaire with me that is supposed to assess how “at risk” I am. According to the questionnaire, I’m “high risk.” Therefore, he referred me to the Brief Intervention Service, where I went for counselling when I first left hospital.

Unfortunately, they will only provide two sessions, after a waiting period of three weeks. And this is for someone who is considered “high risk.”

A friend of mine has been waiting several weeks to see his pyschiatrist. Every time he gets close to his appointment, they push it out again, stating that they need the appointment slot for “an emergency.” I don’t doubt that this is true, but he’s now been waiting months. How long will be it before he becomes the emergency?

Like a commenter pointed out in the last post on this issue –

“The fact you have to get to a point where you want to kill yourself to GET access to that healthcare is already a major issue.”

New Zealand’s suicide rate is one of the highest internationally, and unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise me. The preventative care is just not up to it. Ministry of Statistics provisional figures show 541 suicides in 2012/13. 541 unnecessary, preventable deaths. And the government is still cutting services.

It just doesn’t make sense to me.

I don’t know what I’ll do following those two sessions, because there doesn’t seem to be any other option. I just hope that, in the near future, I’ll get well enough to pay for the care that I need.

Oh, and yes – to be able to pay the bill ACC just sent me for yet another public service that has not been of the slightest help.

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