Dear Mental Health Professionals…

by Katie Houghton
Mental Movement Magazine

Dear You, the potentially amazing person who could change a life.  I want to take this opportunity to write to you on behalf of mental health patients to explain to you how much you mean to us, how your actions can save our lives or in some cases, break them.

We understand that your jobs must be very stressful, that you have undergone so much training to get where you are today and sometimes it must be easy to get bogged down- to stop seeing patients as individuals as you see so many and have to keep up with so many stories, so many cases and lives and that cannot be easy.

To those of you out there that speak to us like individuals, that take the time, don’t rush us out of the door, don’t try and talk over us or push our own thoughts and feelings to one side to give us your own, that show empathy and compassion, ask us what WE think, listen – really listen – we commend you.

We are so grateful to you wonderful professionals that take that time to help us. When we come to you we often feel embarrassed, ashamed, confused and vulnerable and so when we are made to feel at ease by you and you offer a hand that we have been so desperate for it means the absolute world. Maybe even more than you could ever understand if you yourself have never been affected by mental illness. Some of us have been through this process many times, have seen many doctors and health professionals, poured our hearts out time and time again to have it overlooked and so sometimes we may come to you with our guard already up, we are ready to fight you before you have even introduced yourself and before we have even given you a chance but please understand that this is because we have been in battle. Battle with ourselves and in battle with the system for so long that it feels like we will never find anyone to be any different.

This is why when you, the potentially amazing person with the chance to change a life comes along, it means so much. It literally can save our lives and I can guarantee if you are that amazing person you will never ever be forgotten and you will be appreciated more than you know, even if at times we may not show it, the fact that we trust you speaks volumes.

Unfortunately, not all are amazing. There are some health care professionals within the system who I often have wondered why they chose the careers that they did. I am unsure why someone would choose to be in a caring profession, especially someone with more authority such a psychiatrist if they seemingly dislike dealing with patients with mental health issues. The same way I would question why someone would choose to be a chef if they hated cooking.

I can speak on behalf of myself and many others that I have spoken to over the years when I say that your words, whilst extremely vulnerable, can make or break a person. They can literally save a life or quite literally destroy it.

It may sound extreme but, that is the power that you hold in your hands and you may not even realise it at the time. To those who use that power wisely, you deserve so much recognition and thanks. To those who don’t – I am hoping maybe you will rethink how you view and treat your patients. I want you to really hear what you are saying to this human being – not just “another case” -in front of you. Ask yourself whether you really believe what you are saying is right.

For example, I really hope that the psychiatrist who told me after my overdose that my problem was that my life was “boring empty and pointless” has thought about that since and realised that he shouldn’t have spoken to me that way.

I hope the psychiatrist that told me that self-harm was “child’s play” and questioned me as to why I hadn’t actually attempted to kill myself and “didn’t I like that kind of attention?” has at some point in his career either been pulled up or looked at himself in the mirror and realised he is harming patients with comments like that.

Those examples are just the tip of my iceberg. They are just me. One person. I have heard some terrible stories. Stories where comments from people that hold the power to change someone’s life have destroyed it in one moment and made them suicidal – the straw that broke the camels back if you will.

I wonder how these things are allowed to happen. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to challenge the system when making complaints, especially when vulnerable. Believe me, I have tried.

On the other turn of the coin the ones that go above and beyond, that show care and massive amounts of compassion – you are the diamonds, the shining stars that we all search for. Sometimes the search for a star like you can feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It becomes just as tedious too and feels just as hopeless but for those of us that find the fight to keep searching (because unfortunately many lose that hope and that fight) when we find you it’s a very special moment and you probably don’t even realise it but inside we feel like we have found gold. Finally, someone that cares. Finally, someone who wants to listen. We value you and what you do so much. Thank you.

The sad thing is all of you have the chance to be a diamond. To be that star we are searching for. We understand you are human, everyone has bad days. You are not immune to that but on a day-to-day basis holding the power you do in your hands you have the chance to be that star we have been desperately searching for.

Please just treat us as individuals, listen, be kind. That’s all we ask for. That’s all we want most of the time when we are in a bad place and so have had to come and see you. Please don’t belittle us, just hand us medication without talking to us first – definitely, don’t tell us things along the lines of self-harm being attention seeking or that we have wasted people’s time.

Imagine this person sitting in front of you was your daughter/son/wife/husband, whoever it may be and ask yourself how you would feel if someone said those things to someone you loved, if this fills you with anger then please question why you are saying it to patients within your care.

To all you amazing people, the mental health professionals that change lives THANK YOU! To the others that have said things that should have never been said, I am sure you know this already deep down, and I hope that you rethink the way you are treating vulnerable people. You have the potential to be amazing, to do something amazing – please take it. You literally have the power to make or break that person sat in front of you. To help or to hinder and all it takes is the right choice of words and the right approach.

Thank you to those that have changed my life and on behalf of all the other people who have found their diamonds.

There are still so many searching, so to YOU, the person with the potential to be amazing and change a life, the next patient you come into contact with – please be theirs.

Yours Sincerely
Mental Health Patients Everywhere.

If you, or anyone you know, is struggling, Samaritans are here to help. They’re available 24 hours a day and offer a safe place to talk, about anything that is getting to you. Call 116 123.

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