For those of you who have the good fortune not to know this, modern tax-funded mental healthcare is about a hundred times worse than you could imagine somewhere in the depths of the Dark Ages and then times a bit more and then it’s actually quite a lot worse than that, and that’s rather better than it really is. And then some.
By the beginning of this year Bink had been waiting for treatment for so many years that it no longer amounted to waiting but giving up. Two psychiatrists, a hospital and a psychologist in 2017 all said they wouldn’t help her because she was on Lorazepam. And of course none of them would help her come off it.
There is no economic – let alone personal or compassionate – sense to this policy whatsoever. The tax-payer must have spent a fortune on Bink, since she was first diagnosed by a (child-psychiatrist-turned-vicar) friend over the telephone at the age of fifteen.
Ambulances. Hospitalisations. Police. Benefits. GPs. Psychiatrists. Disability grants. Showers put into rooms which then get cancelled. At least six figures on this dispiriting expenditure already.
Not taking into account by far the biggest cost to the nation: the taxes she would have paid on the income she has never had. And mine. And her siblings’. (Her father continued to draw a salary for most of this time, but had a devastating breakdown last year when we were caring for her at home, was signed off work for six months and has now resigned his job.)
You note I don’t even bother to mention the personal pain and loss of a life of happiness and fulfilment. For seven people, at least.
If the NHS had offered Bink, immediately, the best treatment available, the day she was diagnosed – no less that she would have had if her illness had been cancer; a brain tumour; meningitis – it could have been over within months. Probably before she was sixteen. She need never have dropped out of school; taken ten years to complete her degree; been unemployed ever since.
Instead of which, the psychiatrist in charge of her case – an agonising year after we first asked for help – said in response to my (rapidly researched) request that she be treated in the specialist Maudsley Hospital.
“I don't think we need a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”
Setting aside the howlingly, frightfully, hilariously unintended choice of image, she didn't consider Bink ill enough.
Six months later she very obviously was and the psychiatrist herself suggested the Maudsley. Too late. By then Bink was too damaged (mostly by the psychiatrist's own disastrous hospitalisation of her against our wishes, and the medication she was forced to take against her will and ours) to respond.
Even when she has been fortunate enough to be treated – for instance in the Bethlem, twice – each time she has been involuntarily discharged after the statutory 12 weeks, despite begging for more and longer because she wasn't yet well enough to leave.
The process is a lot worse than counter-productive. You have to be so desperately ill before you qualify for admission that it is impossible to get better in the brief time given for treatment. Making it a complete waste of money to offer anything at all, surely.
Bink herself has a different explanation.
“So many of us commit suicide, waiting for treatment, that it probably does save money.”
Perhaps it’s a mistake to look for a Master Plan. But if there is one, perhaps Bink has indeed hit on it.
Perhaps (the theory may go) 85% of severely mentally-ill people aren’t going to get better whatever we do. Perhaps (this belief may continue) 40% of them will be dead in a few years, eking an existence on the streets till they cop it in the cold or taking their own lives in despair. Perhaps (the arithmetic may conclude) it’s not worth gambling on the minority who might be able to make a useful contribution to society.
Be that as it may, no help has been forthcoming for Bink from the NHS for a very long time. And most of it has been in the form of poisonous little pills.
Dangerous. Destructive. And very, very cheap.
Today Bink embarks on a different hope. Today, she has her first appointment (after her initial assessment a few months ago) with her psychiatrist at the Priory. Followed by her very first session of – privately-funded – therapy.
Soon she will be in (a very good) hospital.