Dear George, (or Mr Freeman if you prefer),
Senior Advisor to The Prime Minister herself, and Head of the Number Ten policy unit.
My oh my, where to even begin? Well I suppose we could start by addressing the giant elephant in room, the one with a mental illness and currently showing you the bird.
Did you really mean what you said on BBC Five Live? You know.. the part about how disability benefits should only go to “really disabled people”, and not those “taking pills at home, who suffer from anxiety.” I trust the government PR team aren’t best pleased George? In one mindless comment you’ve basically just confirmed the single greatest fear of EVERY mental health advocate, – that Ms May’s Government doesn’t really give a sh** about mental health, and doesn’t accept mental illness as being a genuine disability. (Hello further £3.7 billion cut to Personal Independence Payments).
Have you ever been suicidal George? Sinking into a darkness so thick and deep that you can’t seem to climb out, no matter how hard you try. Have you ever woken up at night without reason, unable to breathe and desperately trying to sooth your pounding heart? Have you ever felt so frightened, that the thought of leaving your house is like walking through the gates of Hell? What about PTSD? No? Well I hope that you never do, because it’s debilitating. Nobody should have to live that way. Worst still, nobody should have to live that way AND be told that it isn’t legitimate.
Oh and for the record, the reason that we simply “take pills” is because options are fairly limited on the NHS, and because well….. THERE’S NO F**KING MONEY!
You say you don’t “need lectures” about anxiety or depression, but I disagree. Perhaps a quick recap might be useful. So allow me to summarise with a few handy bullet points:
- Mental illness IS a disability and there’s a whole spectrum. So for example, a person with anxiety is indeed, “really disabled” because it affects their quality of life.
- People with mental illnesses are desperate to get better. A lack of recovery isn’t down to laziness, it’s mainly down to an absence of resources… or to echo my earlier point, THERE’S NO F**KING MONEY.
- According to current research, anti-depressant medication only benefits 40% of patients. Oh and the side effects can be horrific, for a less than a 50% success rate.
- Current waiting lists for therapy in the UK are a lotto depending on your postcode, with the average being between four to six weeks. (I was quoted ten btw). Not great, is it?
- There is still a great deal of stigma attached to mental health. For example, an employee wouldn’t be expected to carry on with a job if their arm fell off, (quite rightly). Yet, if their compulsive thoughts were so distressing that they could hardly think straight, let alone complete a task, apparently that’s fine. Carry on as normal. (I’m talking about OCD btw, another ‘real’ disability).
This tragic mentality is still present in many organisations.
I hope that you’ve found this useful George, and if you need any further information then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Either myself, or one of the other sixteen million sufferers in the UK will be happy to help.
Claire – (living with social anxiety, panic disorder and sporadic insomnia since 1995).