"Mental health care for the vulnerable and living on their own"

About: Midpark Hospital / Adult psychiatry NHS Dumfries and Galloway

(as the patient),

I have suffered from mental health since the 1990's on and off but this bout of depression I am struggling to overcome, due to having no family support, friends and I cannot expect my children to support me as they are not old enough and don't understand.

I have been ill for 8 years now with other disabilities and have had lots of horrible things happen to me since 2006 as I can imagine have many people. I have been put on a very high dose of anti-depressant. I see a psychiatrist once every 6 weeks, I am on a long waiting list to see a psychologist and I have only just been granted a Mental Health nurse by letter. Nobody seems concerned about my welfare or vulnerability. All the professionals seem to want to do is get me out socialising, but tell me how can I do that when I am frightened to leave my house? I find maintaining friendships/relationships very hard and the slightest thing is causing me to have an episode and I cry everyday. What does a person with mental health have to do to get serious help and support try take their life or die then it is too late!

I tried to take my life 3 years ago, went to A&E, was asked if I wanted to go to Midpark. I said yes, but on the Monday morning I was told by the psychiatrist it was just a cry for help so off I went home, I was discharged with no further care and my children were removed from my care which broke my heart. Who got all the support? My ex husband, yet I had been literally begging for support to my GP for months before.

I fully am aware that with mental health you have to help yourself too, but it is very hard when you have no family or friends to support you. I don't like my children seeing me like this, I don't want to be like this, as I have other physical disabilities to deal with and when I have a severe episode I no longer phone my GP because what can he/she do? Nothing except tell me to sedate myself with a sleeping tablet.

I was referred to Social Work by a Mental Health Occupational Therapist & the SW wasn't interested in me wanting Personalisation or support. She then referred me to a Community Link Worker to get me out and about. Believe me when I say I do want to get out and about to have a life again but until my mental health improves both I and the lovely lady who is my Community Link Worker both know this. She goes above and beyond her role. She is the only one that actually listens to me.

Over the past years I have asked for CBT and other things to enable me to self help rather than rely on very stretched services. I won't entertain Support in Mind again which my psychiatrist wanted to refer me to but I said no because it just didn't work the last time. The support worker came once every 3/4 weeks and they wanted me to go talk in a cafe in my hometown. Well, I wasn't prepared for people around to be listening to my private business, amongst other reasons.

I feel in my area there is a lot of support for the elderly or over 60's which is fantastic but it feels like there is absolutely no support for anyone say from 30-60. No befriending service, offer of support workers, etc., nothing! ! !

I don't know what will happen to me five weeks to Christmas. It's supposed to be family and friends gather at this time of year. To me, everyday is lonely and Christmas will be no different.

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Response from Linda McKechnie, Lead Nurse and Professional Manager, Community Mental Health Services, Mental Health, Learning Disabilities, Psychology and Specialist Drug and Alcohol Directorate, NHS Dumfries and Galloway

picture of Linda McKechnie

Dear Virgo

I am very sorry to hear about your situation and the difficult experiences you have had over the years. I understand that it can be very distressing to feel that there are insufficient services to provide you with the type of help you feel you need. It is good to hear however that you have good support from you Community Link Worker and I hope you have been able to talk to her about your current feelings. I am also pleased to hear that you have received a letter regarding a Community Mental Health Nurse so that is a positive step forward.

I know that it can be difficult to speak to people about these very personal issues, but I wondered if you would send me your phone number so that I can contact you to discuss further? You can send this through our department’s secure email address: dumf-uhb.MentalHealth@nhs.net

Please remember that at times of distress there are organisations such as the Samaritans who can listen in confidence and are available 24 hours a day. They can be contacted on this free number -116 123. I’m not sure where you live but they also have an office in Dumfries which you can contact on 01387 253555.

With kind regards

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Response from Linda McKechnie, Lead Nurse and Professional Manager, Community Mental Health Services, Mental Health, Learning Disabilities, Psychology and Specialist Drug and Alcohol Directorate, NHS Dumfries and Galloway

picture of Linda McKechnie

Dear Virgo

Thank you very much for speaking with me on the phone today, and it was very helpful to hear your views about the services available for people in your age group.

As we spoke about, often the problem is that even when services and sources of help are available, people sometimes don't know about them. It is important that we continue to develop better ways of letting people in local communities know about what services are out there so that they can decide what might be relevant of helpful for them.

I am pleased to hear that your meeting with your Community Mental Health Nurse went well and that you have been finding out more about things that you may want to pursue in the near future to help you develop your confidence to participate in more social activities, and help you cope with the many challenges in your life.

Thank you again for chatting to me, and I wish you well


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Update posted by Virgo (the patient)

Good Afternoon Linda,

Thank you for phoning me regarding my story it was very much appreciated and I actually got quite a shock. Just to reiterate there aren't many activities of interest for my age group of say the bracket between 30-50yrs or below pensionable age. The activities that are run do not appeal to me unfortunately and seem to be aimed at the older generation. For instance reading from Wellbeing in your Community here are some examples I had to choose from where I live:

1. Knit & Natter based at a residential home for the elderly,

2. Church friendship club

3. Forget-me-not lunch group?????

4. Tea and Tennis

5. Probus Club?????

6. Community Garden

7. Craft Group

Looking at the above list yes there is quite a bit to choose from if you're the older generation and more too!! I am not being fussy but nothing appealed to me and I can imagine it wouldn't appeal to the younger generation like myself.

As I explained I could and still would benefit from a befriender but there are no befriending projects for my age group and I am only a young 42. Yet there is the Foodtrain who do shopping and befriending for the older generation, WRVS, Meals on Wheels etc.

When I first attended the Psychiatrist again I had a Mental Health Occupational Therapist working with me she was lovely and introduced me to some wonderful services that I didn't know existed for e.g.

1. Keep Well Team who consist of nurses and health coaches who come out to your home and basically give you an M.O.T. weight, height, cholesterol, blood sugar and much more.

2. Timebanking - which is where people register to help with various skills they may have and people like me could benefit for e.g. someone do gardening, walk the dog, help around the home etc

3. Self Directed Support - This is to enable a vulnerable, disabled, ill people to get the appropriate help and support that they need at home and the person is in control of their own care plan in conjunction with NHS & Social Work.

Then a Social Worker referred me to a Community Link Worker and I found out about more things one being I didn't even know they existed either.

4. Community Link Workers - Who look at your individual situation and help by supporting you to find things of interest to do locally and will accompany you too.

5. D&G Wellness & Recovery College - Where they run free courses for people to attend, all health and well being related.

I don't know whether the NHS website for our area needs updated regularly with links that work to these support networks that you can refer yourself to but I do know they could do with being advertised more in our communities. Whether that be at Dr's surgeries, village hall noticeboards, definately online easily assessed, through schools for parents & carers, hospital noticeboards and even supermarkets and local papers.

I imagine I can speak for a lot of people when I say it is terrifying having no support, nobody to turn too in your hour of need when you are very poorly and being alone and lonely is such a horrible place to be.

Thank you for listening and understanding, I can tell you my initial meeting with my CPN went ok even though I was frightened to meet another new professional as I find it so hard to trust people but she was really nice.

Over the years I have come across some very uncaring professionals that clearly don't give a damn it's just a job and wage. The one thing I fear is not being listened too or heard and believed. I need to get the right treatment to enable me to get better although I know I will never fully recover from mental health but hopefully I will learn strategies to cope better when I do have a relapse especially when I have other disabilities too. I would urge everyone to check in on their neighbours, friends or relatives perhaps if you haven't saw them for a long time because being alone is so very hard to live with whether you are ill or not.

Many thanks again Linda for responding to my story so promptly and taking the time to speak to me, answer my questions but most importantly listen and hopefully you'll be able to help make a change.

Kind regards,


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