These days we are encouraged to open up about when we don’t feel right in ourselves. No longer do those of us dealing with mental health issues feel the need to hide what we are going through or ask for help, we are refreshingly and enthusiastically encouraged to share share SHARE! But when it comes to actually seeking help to deal with these issues, is it all that easy? Here, in a deeply personal open letter, Hywel Kennedy shares his story about how during a recent plunge into darkness, he found it hard to find satisfactory advice.

“There is a fundamental issue in the UK’s health system when it comes to mental health services. ‬ The NHS, along with charities and other bodies, do their best to campaign, advertise and raise money for these causes, but the buck pretty much stops there.

‪The truth is, unless you have endless money for private healthcare for immediate treatment, the NHS follow a tick-listed protocol when it comes to diagnosis, treatment and processes with mental illness.‬

But mental illness is complex, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to each case. ‬

‪Recently, I experienced moments of ‘crisis’ and alarming thought-processes and a reoccurrence in self-destructive behaviours. ‪Having called my GP and asked for the earliest available appointment (10 days away) I called 111 to tell them I need urgent help to deal with something.

In fairness, this line is fantastic, but THREE HOURS later when the consultant I was promised called me back, and after a series of necessary questions from him all I really got as an option was to contact my local free services that offer free counselling etc… and he gave me a number. (How does he know this will fix my obviously quite serious problem).

From experience, I didn’t find the option of this  free NHS counselling helpful as, again, I was just asked a series of tick-boxy questions and offered a course on ‘how to handle worry’ that was booked for a month from that date. It deterred me from even bothering to take the course.‬

‪Anyway, I explained to the 111 doctor my frustration in the system’s flaw “so you’re basically saying that it would take me to call up with a noose around my neck to register this as a serious case?” A rhetorical question he didn’t seem to disagree with.  ‬

‪I have a point though, right? Like, what if somebody doesn’t get that opportunity. There must be better ways of providing on-demand care for the vast complexity of varying mental health conditions, triggers, flares etc.

So what can be done? I know the NHS is underfunded and understaffed and those who do work in it are amazing and work their arses off but isn’t it time that those in control realised that those who are reaching out are more than just numbers who can be put on a waiting list and that each and every case is urgent and needs a much more personal touch.”