As part of our efforts to advocate for all Scots with poor mental health and mental ill health, we intend to highlight the experiences those who have needed help and care, those who have worked to provide help in our communities, and those working on the frontline of our mental helath service.
Our first story comes from Angela McCrimmon from Livingston. She argues that, said that if there was more promotion around mental health, it would have made a huge difference in her life.
“Everyone has mental health and it’s important to be able to pay attention to it before there’s a problem. If people around me had a better understanding it would have meant the fact I was struggling could have been identified sooner. When you look back, there were a lot of red flags.
“Through my life I felt that the lack of understanding from health professionals was more of a problem than any other.
“My friends accept me the way I am. But there was a significant period of misunderstanding and stigma from professionals and that was horrific. I was put into hospital, for instance, which would never have been a place of choice for me.
“For a long time, health professionals only saw me in crisis as I only called them when I was in that kind of crisis situation, so they thought I lived my whole life in crisis. They didn’t take me seriously for a long while. They only saw that one side of me, and didn’t see that I wasn’t always like that.
“I’ve experienced some unkind things as part of the health system, where I’ve really felt a lack of compassion.”
Angela thinks that prevention and getting early help and support, free from stigma and discrimination, is key to recovery. She said: “For me, if they had prevented the crisis rather than waited for it, it would have avoided so much agony for everyone. For years I needed someone to catch me so I wouldn’t get to crisis. Where I would have otherwise have needed one service, I needed six instead."
“The longer you’re not in recovery, the harder it is to get there. The longer it goes on for you, the more you can lose the belief in yourself and don’t believe recovery is possible.
“Self-help keeps recovery at the forefront of the mind, but it’s a long process and it’s about recovery – not being recovered. The key point, though, was that I didn’t have to be ill all the time, and that I’m not the illness.”
Recently the support provided to Angela has been more person centred, and she has been able to have a say in her care, which has made a huge difference. She added: “My experiences of the mental health services in the last few years have been positive, but before it was negative. The thing that pushed the situation over the edge, eventually, was me being sectioned and I knew I had to fight back."
“Keeping quiet and going along with them had got me into that position. The comment that really sticks in my mind was someone saying, “You’re awfully articulate for someone who’s unwell”. It took someone to push me that far for something to snap, and I knew I would fight. It comes down to being understood."
“Continuity has been a huge thing – setting up a care plan to see the same doctor for instance. It has to be the same person you’re seeing so you can build a relationship.
“The best support has been from my GP after my care plan was set up. That gave me the confidence to make the call when I needed to, and nine times out of ten she’s been able to call me back quickly."
“My GP is always the first port of call. People respond rather than react now, and I know I’m not going to face judgement.”