For me, the weekend started poorly, and finished with me feeling deeply depressed, reminding me that, no matter how well I manage my physical chronic illnesses and mental anxiety, there are many triggers for a return to that vortex of despair that can lead to suicidal thoughts. The first news came from Pembrokeshire when I was trying to get more details of the suicide of a 14 year old girl. My friend Diana told me of another 14 year old girl, named Seren Pritchard who had hung herself from a treee in a well known beauty spot. Seren lived with her grandmother, under the care of Social Services because she was a 'very difficult child to control'. The people in the area treated this matter-of-factly, saying that her death was inevitable. How sad that a sick girl in need could not be given the help she deserved, to avoid such a well signposted tragedy.
On the same day, 2nd May,The Western Mail reported the double suicides of two girls, 15 and 14 who jumped to their deaths from a bridge The Coroner's court ruled that 'Extra Care' could have saved Georgia Rowe and Niamh Lafferty. So. where was that much-needed care - of all four young girls ? It seems as though we have become so immune to tragedy that we all adopt the attitude, 'At least it wasn't MY child'. In the same edition of the Echo, Kathryn Williams reported yet another suicide, in her article "I saw Man jump off multi-storey" Owen Wyn Pritchard, jumped from the 12th floor of the Cardiff Bay car park, in sight of workers across the road. IN a letter to his wife, found on the seat of his car, he apologised, saying "I've managed this ( Anxiety Depression) for over ten years", when he was a teenager in 1992. His problems centred around his Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour, for which he was seeing a Behavioural Therapist. He was said to 'not to have expressed any suicidal thoughts' ( yeah right ). Coroner Mary Hassell returned the verdict that "Mr Pritchard had taken his own life".
This wasn't to be the end of my sorrrow. In the Sunday Express (May 6th), after being enraged by Ian Duncan Smith's statement to seriously handicapped Remploy employees that they "Should Get a Proper job". I read on to the most upsetting report on the treatment of the mentally ill. - "7000 shock treatments on NHS condemned for brain damage'. How is Electro Convulsive Therapy still in use today ???? It'a barbaric practice, that the worst horror movie could only do this any justice. A very dear friend of mine was given this therapy, contrary to my wishes. She was one of the survivors who was left reasonably well yet very vulnerable. After years of abuse and theft of money by her alcoholic 'partner', she suffered a manic episode where she would keep saying to me "Robin, I'm going to jail, I have to kill him, he's destroyed me". After being sectioned, she was given ECT, with the result that it appeared as though all the pain and suffering had been erased from her memory. I was horrified to hear her say she was going back to her 'partner' who, unsurprisingly, continued to abuse her and rob her until he died in a drunken stupour. Everyone who knew her loved her, and she helped me ( and many others ) for years.
I only mention my dear friend, and her experiences with ECT, because - to my absolute horror - the final episode of 'Homeland' ended with the star, Carrie, being given ECT, showing the awful procedure in detail - from anaesthesia, having a rubber gag shoved in her mouth and then the electrodes placed on her temples, prior to the awful visible sight of an electric convulsion.
I am sorry to be so maudlin, but I did not enjoy any of these horrors that many mentally ill patients resort to in in an effort to escape the pain.
I pray that mental health services will receive huge financial reparations for all the delberate destruction that has resulted in patients being deprived of the 'Extra Care' that could prevent more tragedies in future. We must provide more accessible help to those poor souls who suffer from a mental illness. R.W.