• Mair Elliott

A hearty Thank you

(Trigger warning)

In my activism and public speaking I talk about my experiences of accessing mental health services, inevitably this means that I speak very negatively. Mental health services are under a huge amount of pressure; under-resourcing, under-funding, under-staffing have lead to a service that simply cannot function. This results in vulnerable people trying to access services being let down and left in desperate situations. Since I was first referred to mental health services at 14 years old, up until now, and most probably for the next few years of my life at least, I have and will experience these shortcomings first hand. Whether it is waiting times, poor crisis care, lacking staff, lacking appropriate resources, staff which are overworked and disempowered...I know what it's like to experience these things as a person in need of help and support. I have frequently been let down, been put in unnecessary distress, and not received the support I need and deserve because mental health services cannot function currently.

But, and this is a big 'but', there have been glimmering moments where I cannot fault the care I have received, and it is down to individuals working in the services who have gone above and beyond for me. So, I wanted to take a moment to thank the professionals who have given me moments of relief and support in difficult times.

To the psychiatrist who first noticed I may be autistic and pursued an autism assessment for me. Without you I would probably still be trapped in the internal turmoil of undiagnosed autism.

To the nurse in the adolescent psych unit, you were a male 6 foot 8 Scottish rugby player but you let me paint your nails bright pink as a distraction when I was being tormented by hallucinations, you helped me to smile when my own brain was attacking me with cruelty.

To the Art therapist in the same unit who helped me to express myself when I'd spent years unable to verbalise my thoughts and feelings.

To the Occupational therapist on the same unit who realised my struggle with hospital food and arranged for me to make my own food at least once a week.

To the psychologist who organised 'surf therapy', you gave me 2 hours a week of fun when my life felt so dark.

To the nurse who spent a year and a half doing Dialectical Behaviour therapy with me, you helped me to managed my chronic suicidal thoughts and feelings, my self harm, and other self destructive impulses.

To the CPN in adult services, you made me feel listened to and respected, you treated me with dignity and such care. When you drove me yourself to the adult acute ward, I was absolutely terrified but you made me feel so much calmer.

To the OT assistant on the acute psych adult ward, you spent ages trying to find the right flavour fortisip for me when Chocolate or vanilla fortisip was all I could manage to get myself to eat.

To the health care assistant who sat as my 1:1 support in A+E resus after I absconded and took an overdose. You sat with me for going on 8 hours, cleaning me up when I vomited, helped me to the bathroom, got the A+E doctors and nurses quickly when my condition worsened, stopped me from pulling out my canula, and so much more. You told me afterwards that you could have been relieved off 1:1 with me after 4 hours but you chose to stay with me to preserve my own dignity- that was amazing.

To the Psychiatrist of the ward, you didn't make me feel dismissed or belittled me (which was my usual experienced) you listened, and even though I may disagree with you sometimes I still completely respect you.

To the Health Care Assistant who sat with me during mealtimes and tried to help me to eat, I know I was stubborn and could be a bit snappy, but you're patience and encouragement made the world of difference.

To the dietitian who I have been seeing since I was 16, you've stuck with me and helped me to see my eating disorder as it truly is - evil.

And here's to the non-NHS professionals, the police, the school counsellor, a handful of school staff, my colleagues in Hafal- all of you have made some really distressing and dark times a little bit easier.

I whole-heartedly thank each and every professional who has made a positive difference in my care and treatment. I am eternally grateful for those of you who have given me excellent care in a system which is failing. I am aware that when I do my work, I often am very negative, but I need it to be clear that certain professionals have gone above and beyond for me, and these people should be recognised and celebrated. Had it not been for these individuals I don't know where I'd be. So thank you to each and every one of you, I hope you realise that I am doing my activism and public speaking to make the system change for the better for people like me and professionals alike.

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About Me

I am a young patient  activist, speaking openly about life with mental illness and autism. My activism includes public speaking, trying to affect change in mental health and/or autism services by contributing to relevant organisations, panels, committees and executive boards. I hope to break down misconceptions, stereotypes and stigma relating to mental illness and autism, and to create a future where mental health services are fit for purpose.

Want to hear me speak? Curious about my story? Think I could help you or your organisation to understand mental health and/or Autism?

Get in touch; Mair.elliott97@gmail.com


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