After reading a BBC news article on mental health provision in the UK recently “Shocking discrimination in mental health services” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18481943), I decided to write a post about our attitudes to mental health in society today. I have known many friends who have received various forms of treatment for various forms of depression. Personally, I was diagnosed with anxiety by my GP a few years ago, and was referred to an NHS service which taught me techniques of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and breathing control which I found very valuable. It was this treatment, along with, I believe, the power of God’s Holy Spirit working in me, that I have been able to make massive progress in dealing with anxiety issues, which affect me now to a far lesser degree and in far fewer challenging circumstances. I used to get nervous sitting in very crowded rooms for long periods of times without suffering anxiety . However, in the past year I have sat in many services and lectures, and led a fair few, without being significantly struck by my anxiety. Indeed, looking back since my anxiety treatment, I can see there are many public events I have attended which would have caused me considerable worry before, that I didn’t even think twice about worrying about this time round. I confess I still felt pretty anxious before singing in a choir of ten at a graduation ceremony in front of about 500 people including my tutors and University officials – but I managed to sing well enough – and I am, after all only human!
So my testimony is a success story. I credit most of the work to God. But I also am very grateful for how I believe he worked through the NHS – enabling the right GP to refer me to the right NHS service that would enable me to receive the proper treatment for my condition. I recognise that I was in the right city at the right time. But I also remember my worries about speaking to my GP about anxiety the first time. I was afraid to book in an appointment – in the end I waited until I was wanting to see the GP about a physical ailment, and only mentioned the anxiety situation at the end of the consultation. At the time I was also undergoing the selection procedure for the Church of England, and I spent sleepless nights worrying about the effect it might have on the process to have a “mental health” referral on my medical record. Fortunately for me, this worry proved to be unfounded, although it did take a trip to London and the reassurance of a second doctor to confirm this to me and the Church of England.
I believe that in recent years, mental health issues are beginning to be more recognised by society as “real” health issues, not just mood swings or conditions that people make up. I hope that our society is not ignoring those with mental health issues. It worries me though that services such as the simple series of 6 classes that treated me might be being squeezed out with the budget cuts. As Christian churches and friends, I believe we can be helping people in this area and encouraging people to seek, where available the appropriate treatment, and I hope that the recent BBC article will help people to
But more importantly, I hope people begin to see that mental health conditions are treatable. They might not always be 100% curable, but there are therapies and medications which enable people to deal with their condition enough to be able to perform their jobs well, and help people do the things they really love doing more frequently. We need to break apart the unhealthy mindset, of those with conditions and those without, that to be afflicted with a mental health condition means an end to successful employment, happiness and enjoyment of life. For me, dealing with anxiety has taught me to learn about myself and to recognise my dependence on God. I no longer see it as the “death sentence over my career” I once believed it to be.