During last nights Question Time Theresa May was confronted by two members of the audience who had been victim to the Work Capability Assessment. One woman, who was partially sighted and suffering greatly from mental health issues and numerous other problems, explained how she had applied for counselling at the end of 2015 and has not yet had her first appointment. She also emotionally spoke of her Work Capability Assessment, explaining how the treatment by the nurse responsible had pushed her to tears. Experiencing humiliating and degrading questions, the lady was extremely shocked when the nurse forgot to do the physical examination on her sight – instead focusing the time on interrogating her.
It was hard to watch and I wished desperately that I could comfort this woman. Surely, the Prime Minister – leader of the party responsible for the dramatic cuts to mental health services, and for the militant scrutiny of vulnerable members of society – would have something comforting to say? Well, no.
It seems there is always a sneer on May’s face, and even under these circumstances she couldn’t keep it at bay. As she started to go off on a rant about how she will improve mental health services, the audience member understandably shook her head – why would she believe that May is going to do a thing to improve these services when it’s the Tory government who have ripped them to shreds? Why does no one bring this up?! They tore mental health services apart and are now having to put a bit back into it because of the devastation this has caused – this will barely fix a thing. What about all of the people who have already lost the battle, while they waited over a year to be helped? Mental health care cuts in England have totalled 4.5 million pounds.
And as May spoke about how she would fix everything, she actually started smiling! Smiling!!! This audience member had just broke her heart on national television, describing the inhumane way she had been treated because of May’s government, and here May was – smiling at her and telling her “not to shake her head” and to listen.
Three weeks after my brother died I began to experience severe panic attacks. I was working two jobs at the time that I desperately needed and I was at risk of being fired if I took any time off from either of them. I visited my GP, who prescribed me a small amount of temporary medication but explained to me that the problem was psychological and needed to be treated with counselling if we were to fix it in the long run. He referred me to grief counselling and told me that a counsellor would ring me in a matter of days. I returned to work and awaited the call. And just a few days later, when I was on my way to my second job, she phoned. I was impressed with the speed. The woman I spoke to was sympathetic and reassuring, as I cried down the phone to her telling her I could not cope. I told her I felt weak for feeling this way, and that everyone around me seemed to be moving on yet I was choked with grief. She explained that I should expect to grieve for up to 6 months at least, and it would possibly be longer, and that I must find a way to deal with the vicious side effects that were manifesting. I told her my doctor prescribed temporary medication and referred me to get appointments with the organisation she was from. Then she dropped the bombshell… there wasn’t an appointment available for 7 months. Where was the logic? According to her I may not even still be grieving at that point! Where was the prescribed treatment for my diagnosed illness?
My mental health deteriorated from there and I still suffer anxiety to this day – and it is still untreated. I never received the call for grief counselling. I have given up on waiting for any form of counselling. I could not take temporary medication forever, and I can’t take long term medication for various reasons. It is likely that I will feel the effects of this untreated illness for the rest of my life, and I will certainly suffer the consequences of various situations I have been in because of it. So to see Theresa May smiling and beginning to laugh about this subject made me sick to my stomach. To see the audience member break her heart and just be ushered along like she was nothing made me so angry. To have it shortly followed by a room full of angry, old, white men shouting at Jeremy Corbyn because he didn’t not want to “press the button” just about defeated me. This country needs to get its act together.
Mind (a mental health charity) have put together an ‘at a glance guide’ to the party manifestos on mental health. People must remember that the Tories are responsible for the huge cuts to mental health services in the first place.
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