Wednesday, December 21, 2011

When Help Isn't Helpful

Last night, I called a number I've contacted many times before: Crisis Services.  For those of you in a healthy place mentally, Crisis Services is a number that you can call when you need someone to talk to and you don't feel like you can talk to anyone else.  Basically, if you're feeling depressed, suicidal, insanely stressed, overwhelmed, confused, and so on, you can call them and talk to a professional counsellor.  (Note: You don't have to be feeling all of these things at once.)

Every time I've called in, I've spoken to a kind and understanding counsellor who listened to what I had to say and took me seriously.  When I called last night, I was surprised, first of all, to talk to a man.  I wasn't comfortable with that, but I had a question.  (It didn't occur to me to ask if I could speak with a woman instead, though I don't even know if that's an option.)  I posed my question ("How do you go about getting 'mental health leave' from work?") and he asked me, "Do you have a mental illness?"  I told him that yes, I did, and proceeded to explain why I was looking into mental health leave (stress, exhaustion, lack of sleep -- though not for a lack of trying, suicidal thoughts, self-harming desires, etc.).  His response?  "Well, you might be depressed."  What?  I just told you that I am!

I was trying not to jump to conclusions, but I was getting really frustrated.  I told him, "I am depressed.  I've been diagnosed."  He sounded surprised when he next asked, "You have?  What's your diagnosis?"  I told him both of my diagnoses and expected to be directed to a website or given a phone number to call for more information about mental health leave.  Instead, he told me to ask my doctor to try putting me on medication.  When I informed him that I've been on medication for five years, he told me to "ask for more."

It was like being 13 again and repeatedly telling my doctor that my chronic stomach aches were not a physical illness, but instead a psychological symptom of something else.  Even then, I knew something wasn't right.  However, no one believed me.  And no one ever did until I was 17.  Being 24 and diagnosed, I thought I'd left the years of justifying and qualifying behind me.

Receiving help for a mental health issue should not be a fight.  Children and teenagers should not be dismissed when they express the opinion that something is wrong and it might be psychological.  Maybe no one remembers being 11 or 13, but at that age, people are self-aware.  They can tell when something doesn't feel right, and as adults, we should trust their instincts regarding their own mental health, particularly when they ask for help.

No comments:

Post a Comment