One of the safety nets for those who suffer from mental health issues is that of the crisis team, a bunch of people who monitor the telephone and await calls from those who know they are in the midst of a brain squall (those storms which come from nowhere and sink many a life) - for many of those who suffer from mental illness this is the equivalent of the lifeboat service; you call and the flare is sent up and help is made theirs.
Of course it's not just the mentally ill who suffer through mental illness - there are also the family and friends who, finding a loved one sinking and unable to cope, need to call the crisis team in the hope that they might get advice and the help of those who are trained to deal with the squalls and waves of depressions, mania and confusion.
I have a great deal of respect for many of those who work in the support and care of the mentally ill, but of course there are some who challenge my Christian love and there are situations which cause me to mutter and moan (after all, we are all human, aren't we?). This is one of those situations:
One of the people we know and seek to support obviously 'in crisis' and in need of assistance and this, as always, presents itself as a 'walking on eggshells' exercise to avoid adding to the ill person's stress and getting the right person to do the right thing in the right way around them!
It wasn't that long ago that we found ourselves in a similar situation which went really wrong and eventually saw the Police enforcing a section 136 (a Police section which permits them to take the ill person into custody at a mental health unit and detain them, without any right to leave so full assessment can be made, for up to 72 hours.) on them.
But here comes the problem.
Imaging you're on an aircraft flying along at 10,000 feet when you notice the pilots come out of the cabin, don parachutes and leave by the nearest exit (OK, we'll forget about decompression and the closing of the door afterwards, it's an analogy not an accurate account of flying at FL100 and the effects of pressure). What would you do?
Imagine you ring the attendant call and ask the steward what's going on, only to be told that the pilot and copilot have started their holidays and since they were flying over their chosen destinations thought it would be handy to parachute in rather than get a flight back after they'd landed the aircraft you are in.
How would you fell - especially when invited to have a peek at the flight deck to reassure you and saw this:
Would you be reassured?
Not even if the steward told you that everything was pre-programmed for the aircraft to land at your destination automatically and that, "Nothing can go wrong! - all will be well by the time the end arrives."
Well that's the situation my ill person has found themselves in - they've rung their CPN and their support worker, their case worker and, having had no response, called the crisis team to be told, "Your team are all away on holiday but will be back soon and will be able to help you!"
Now imaging you had a fire and heard the message that the firefighters were all on holiday but will get back to you as soon as they return. What do you do? You have the equivalent of a blaze inside someone's head and there's no help on the horizon?
Looking at the situation I find that a combination of reduced provision, holiday season and the usual (yes, it even happens in mental health care) 'jobsworth' attitudes (brought on by too much workload and perhaps not enough training) are all at play here. Were the ill person just up the road I could get involved and 'do stuff' but this usually results in us becoming the carer and support person (and workload means that once in that frame those 'carers' are more than happy to step back and leave us to it) - not always an easy task.
So a plea to those who have people in crisis: MAKE A NOISE - BE BLOODY MINDED!
I am not rabble rousing here but unless the MPs, the local and County government departments, the NHS trusts and the like are challenged and niggled, nothing is going to change and the tide, with regard to mental health care, has already gone out too far - it cannot go out any further without tragedy becoming a daily reality for our communities.
If you read this and are in mental health care, please realise that this is not a knock at you (unless you're the person who told me that those around you were, "Too busy at the moment!") but an acknowledgement that you are part of an underfunded and overstretched occupation and call to draw a line and reverse the trends and to get you some able (and present) coworkers).
In the area I inhabit there are only two mental health units running now and the danger is that soon the stewards will be leaving the aircraft too. Think about the aircraft analogy and ask yourself why, when no one would tolerate such a thing happening, we are willing as a society to let the same scenario be the daily experience of our mentally ill?
Find out the facts - talk to the mentally ill you know - make noise.
And of course, Christian or not, come alongside (and if you're Christian then pray too).