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To document my attempts to seek mental health support with the aim of raising awareness of how hard it is?

(66 Posts)
JoannaPublic Fri 13-Jan-17 12:14:25

I am 33 weeks pregnant. I have been seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder and its effect on my pregnancy since I was 25 weeks pregnant. Everyone from whom I have sought help agrees that I need to be seen before the baby is born. Everyone from whom I have sought help assures me that "someone" should and will be able to help, but nobody can tell me who this "someone" is or where I can find them.

To date, I have tried:

The GP: They can only refer me on. In the past, they were sometimes able to offer short-notice 10 minute appointments to allow me just to talk a bit and in theory still would. Like most GP practices, though, they are currently inundated with patient need, with the result that it can often take hours or days to get through on the phone, and the only appointments available can often be weeks away.

The midwife: She has given me endless extra time and appointments, and has advocated tirelessly on my behalf. She is not trained or licensed or insured to deal with PTSD herself, and so like the GP can only pass me on.

The counselling service attached to the GP: I am on their waiting list, but they cannot see me before the baby is born. From what I have heard locally, they will not have the experience or the expertise to help, but I am willing to try anything.

Health psychology: They used to be able to treat pregnant women with PTSD, but are no longer commissioned or funded to do so. They are not making an exception for me.

The local perinatal mental health service: I do not fit their local criteria. Firstly, they tried to refer me back to health psychology, finding as I did that health psychology will not take me. They are now trying to refer me to a local primary care psychology service which has no specialism or expertise in pregnancy or PTSD, and which has waiting lists of such length that I am unlikely to be able to see anyone before the baby is born. The process even of referral from the perinatal mental health service to primary care psychology will take 7-10 days - which, given that I only have a maximum of 7 weeks left, seems a very long time.

The antenatal ward at the local hospital: Due to medical problems with the pregnancy, I have been admitted several times, and during each admission procedure, I have been asked the routine questions about my mental health and about whether I would like help. However, I found that, by saying that I would like help, the ward could only refer me to health psychology or perinatal mental health, neither of whom will see me. Like the GP and my own community midwife, the hospital midwives have been nothing but kind and supportive - but they are overstretched, and not trained or equipped to deal with PTSD.

The Samaritans (116 123 from UK landlines and mobiles, available 24/7): They are very good, and I cannot recommend them highly enough. But they are not a substitute for professional help, and would never claim to be. And unfortunately, some of their volunteers do sometimes say "I'm sure if you spoke to your GP, he would be able to find you the help you need". This isn't helpful, for all the reasons I have explained.

The local private sector: I am (with the support of my DH and midwife) currently ringing round all local private therapists. So far, all of them have said they either cannot help with my specific difficulties, or that they cannot help within the timescales needed. I am not in London, am not in the SE, and do not drive, so this limits my options a bit too. But yes, I probably will find someone eventually. If I didn't believe that I might, or if I couldn't potentially afford to pay for it, I wouldn't be posting my experiences here on Mumsnet.

And yet, having documented all of this, I realise that I am in a privileged and fortunate position. I have a good support network, the education and literacy to be able to seek and request help, and the money to pay for what the NHS cannot provide. If things are this bad for me, how much worse must they be for women who lack the voice to ask for help and lack the money to pay for it.

So having documented all of this, I am asking the following

- Could we all please end this culture in British society of telling distressed individuals simply to "get help"? To tell someone to "get help" implies that there is help available - and as my story illustrates, this is not necessarily the case, and certainly not necessarily the case at the point at which the individual needs help most.

- Could any readers or posters on here with any political or strategic or media influence please use my story to lobby for better availability, accessibility and funding of mental health support for pregnant women?

JoannaPublic Fri 13-Jan-17 12:54:21

I'm bumping this so that it does fall unanswered off the end of the page.

JoannaPublic Fri 13-Jan-17 12:54:46

*doesn't

dangermouseisace Fri 13-Jan-17 13:11:15

having had MH probs more or less continuously for the past 24 years including postnatal etc I'd say that unfortunately MH provision tends to be about firefighting. If you are extremely unwell you might get 'help' in that you might get help to keep you safe, and be medicated, but anything therapeutic is in extremely short supply or non existent.
E.g.friend has PTSD years and years for a course of successful EMDR, but during that time she hasn't been able to work.

In other areas of disability people openly campaign for better funding/treatment. It doesn't happen with MH much. I think it's often too difficult for people with MH problems to do that due to the difficulties involved in having MH problems and also the stigma.

Then again, all NHS/local authority stuff seems to be falling apart due to austerity. It seems everything is about firefighting!

I hope you manage to find someone in the private sector that can give you the help that you need.

dangermouseisace Fri 13-Jan-17 13:11:44

friend waited years and years

EstelleRoberts Fri 13-Jan-17 13:17:31

OP, this is appalling. I am really sorry you are going through this. Have you contacted your MP about it?

I know somebody who I think may be able to help you privately. She specialises in mental health problems in pregnancy. I think she can do sessions over Skype, if she are not local to you. Will pm you her details.

Putthatonyourneedles Fri 13-Jan-17 13:23:28

I have been in a very similar situation when I was pregnant and my mental health took a decline it was always a referral but never any actual help because I didn't meet the criteria or no one could help me as I was pregnant and that was outside their criteria.

I have been dismissed from my job due to the effect my mental health has had and the bosses kept saying "you should have sought help" why didn't I think of that angry if it was only that easy. So other than trying upwards of 5 types of medication on varying doses and seeing my gp nearly every fortnight what else can I 1do?
The local crisis team said to me the last time I was referred to them that I wasn't meeting their criteria as I wasn't actively suicidal at that present time.

JoannaPublic Fri 13-Jan-17 13:26:25

So many sad stories on here sad

@EstelleRoberts thanks for your PM. Am looking into it.

hibouhibou Fri 13-Jan-17 13:37:24

This country is in a mental health crisis isn't it?

I suffer from anxiety and depression and even I've found it difficult to find help unless i get to the point where I'm suicidal. Luckily I saw a psychiatrist and a psychologist weekly after the birth of my DD, but only because I was living in London and the hospital I gave birth at was one of the only few in the country I think with a perinatal service.

EstelleRoberts Fri 13-Jan-17 17:44:26

Joanna yvw.

It's deeply, deeply shit that you, and so many others, are left in this position. My heart goes out to you.

BillSykesDog Fri 13-Jan-17 17:58:42

What caused the PTSD and why don't you fit the criteria for peri-natal mental health? I was referred to them while pregnant and was seen really quickly and they've been great.

BillSykesDog Fri 13-Jan-17 17:59:42

I'm just trying to understand why you can't go to that service as I have some knowledge of NHS systems and might be able to point you in the right direction.

glueandstick Fri 13-Jan-17 19:18:31

This won't help at all, but you're not alone (sadly) I've been asking for help since I was 6 weeks pregnant. My child turns one in a few weeks.

There is nothing available and no funding.

It's a sad state of affairs. I really hope you can find some help.

Dawndonnaagain Fri 13-Jan-17 19:20:47

I too have PTSD. Have been waiting since September for trauma counselling.

RandomMess Fri 13-Jan-17 19:30:38

I waited 5 years this time despite having previously had a few years of treated. Had to start again from scratch, then moved home to a different PCT had to start from scratch again despite a referral letter from previous psychotherapist confused

So wait 3 months for telephone assessment, wait 9 months for 6 sessions of counselling, wait 6 months to see psychiatrist wait 6 months to see someone who can actually help.... still quicker than the last time!!!

You get this constant sense that the solution is suicide because trying to get help is so difficult and long term support non-existent.

showmeislands Fri 13-Jan-17 22:48:30

I'm a clinical psychologist in the NHS. If you have a diagnosis of PTSD you should certainly be entitled to access trauma-focused cognitive behaviour therapy (TF-CBT) via your local CMHT or via IAPT (depending on complexity). Generic counselling won't cut it - for PTSD you will need TF-CBT or EMDR. Your GP would need to refer you to the CMHT for assessment, but you can self-refer to your local IAPT online. Trauma therapy generally requires at least 12 sessions for single incident trauma and there will be a waiting list in either service (though much shorter in IAPT). So it isn't going to be a quick process, but I really hope you get the help you deserve.

showmeislands Fri 13-Jan-17 22:56:39

Also, if you can afford to pay privately, there are many psychologists who would be able to treat trauma - Skype therapy is offered by many if you can't find someone local to you. A clinical or counselling psychologist, or CBT therapist will be most likely to offer trauma focused therapy.

JoannaPublic Sat 14-Jan-17 00:40:51

@BillSykesDog I am glad that your experience has been different to mine. But I don't think this thread is an appropriate place for doubting the veracity of my experience.

@showmeislands I am sure there are many out there, but I haven't yet found one who will take me soon enough, even via Skype. The one suggested upthread has a waiting list which means that I wouldn't get the help I need before the baby arrives.

JoannaPublic Sat 14-Jan-17 00:48:40

Also, re previous post from showmehands

a. CMHT won't take me because I'm pregnant. Perinatal CMHT won't take me because I have needs that are too complex.

b. Local IAPT have now insisted several times that I must try their counselling first. Their counsellors cant see me until after the birth, even though I have been on various of their waiting lists for almost a year now. Explaining that I will need to wait longer is not acceptable. Everyone from whom I have sought help and everyone who has assessed me agrees that I need to be seen now, as a matter of urgency.

JoannaPublic Sat 14-Jan-17 00:49:38

Oops sorry I mistakes the last post. I hope I haven't involved an actual member unnecessarily in this thread.

LoupGarou Sat 14-Jan-17 02:13:48

I have recovered from having PTSD, it was a long, hard battle to get rid of it.
flowers OP its a rubbish place to be, and in my experience is all too often misunderstood or dealt with inappropriately (or not at all). I'm afraid I have no other help or advice as we don't live in the UK and haven't for many years.

LoupGarou Sat 14-Jan-17 02:16:09

Sorry, that last bit unintentionally sounded dismissive. What I meant was that I don't really know how mh services in the UK work, or by the sounds of it rather spectacularly don't.

BillSykesDog Sat 14-Jan-17 02:29:16

I didn't. If you read my second post I asked because I've worked in the NHS and thought I might be able to point you in the right direction as you didn't meet the perinatal mental health criteria. I was pointing it out my experience as you've applied your experience to pregnant women in general when it appears from your own post that it's actually a very specific set of your own circumstances which is causing you problems accessing services.

I assume the reason why you don't fit the criteria for perinatal mental health is that the root of your PTSD is something which predates/is unrelated to your pregnancy and they can't deal with that because they are so specialised. You don't say what it is, but you might find that a charity which is related to whatever this root is might be the best source of signposting for help, especially in the private sector. E.g. rape charities, service charities etc. They can put you in touch with someone who specialises in that particular area.

attheendoftheday Sat 14-Jan-17 02:30:00

I work in MH. The unfortunate reality is that MH services are increasingly only funded and commissioned to help people in the most dire need (so, for example, not people who feel like they want to kill themselves, only those who intend to kill themselves in a specified manner in the near future).

It is awful. It is not because MH professionals don't want to help. It is also clearly apparent that a little help at an earlier stage would be worth more than a lot of help later on.

I would say to stay on the waiting list and remember that the crux of treating PTSD is talking about what has happened, you don't need to be with a professional to start this if you have supportive friends or family.

AnxiousMunchkin Sat 14-Jan-17 02:32:58

OP it sounds massively frustrating to be falling between every gap. Perinatal service not accepting because needs are too complex seems to be the problem to me. They could at least see you and do their best rather than leave you unsupported. Is the PTSD focused on something pregnancy related? Or are the other issues which make your needs 'complex' things that tend to be exacerbated perinatally?

Btw BillSykes' post didn't come across to me as doubting you at all - I read it as her asking questions to clarify the situation because she felt she might be able to offer advice depending on the answer.

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