No, this post isn’t about the Pulp song, good as it is….
…I’m referring to the first time somebody seeks support for a mental health problem. Be it by going to the GP, or their school/university counsellor, or a voluntary sector organisation.
In the comments thread to D Osborne’s guest post on work and mental health, a comment was left by Maureen, asking for advice.
I’m an 18 year old girl and want to see a therapist for my sleepwalking and symptoms of atypical depression. But I’m afraid that if I admit I occasionally self-harm they will slap a label of BPD or Bipolar disorder on me (I don’t have any symptoms of these disorders but I hear occasional self-harming is enough to get the label). I have read on this blog how horribly people with BPD are treated by the health industry. I hope to go to nursing school soon and I don’t think they would admit someone who had a bpd or bipolar diagnosis. For those of you who are knowledgeable about therapy, do you think it’s worth it for me to see a therapist or deal with it on my own? Thanks very much.
I’ve left what I hope is some useful advice in response.
The thought occurs to me that, working in a community team, regularly seeing children and famiies come to CAMHS for an assessment, It’s probably easy for me to forget how difficult and frightening it can be for people to make that first step. It also occurs to me that I probably haven’t thought so much about the unanswered questions that may be going through their heads while trying to decide whether to ask their GP for a referral.
I did once have a conversation about it, with a 17 year old boy who came to see us alone and without his parents’ knowledge. He said he’d thought long and hard about whether to come to see us. For him, the main worries were, “Will they put me on medication?” (We didn’t; we offered him therapy) and, “Will they tell my parents?” (Again, we didn’t; though we did tell him we’d prefer if he told his parents he was coming to us, and also warned him that if he became a risk to himself or others we would have to override confidentiality).
A couple of years ago I had a friend ring me in a panic, because her GP was referring her to the Community Mental Health Team, and she was terrified she was about to be hospitalised. In the end they sent her a routine appointment for an assessment. After this, they wrote her an advice letter and then referred her back to the GP.
I’d be interested to hear the experiences of others in this regard. Was it an easy or a difficult thing to make that decision to ask for support? What were your hopes and fears in doing so? Are there things that could be done to make it easier?