In this astonishing, upsetting and literally depressing article in The Guardian, Jen McPherson reveals the desperate reality of the state of mental health care in Britain, or rather the lack of it. McPherson’s story is grim enough in itself, having been to places I have never visited, nor would ever want to. But there was one grim statistic that leapt out at me: eight million people are shut out of NHS mental health care because they don’t qualify as ill enough, and a further 1.6 million who do are sitting on waiting lists. This number is far, far worse than I ever imagined.

Forgive me for turning this story from McPherson’s into mine, but the only way I can relate to her story is by comparing it to mine. I’ve not (yet) been sectioned and locked up in an institution and I am grateful for that. However, that does not provide me with any comfort. I’m ill but not ill enough to get treatment other than the maximum level of prescription drugs that I am permitted to have.

When I was younger, I remember being referred to a psychiatrist at Southmead hospital in Bristol, someone who must have been very important because he had ‘Mr’ on his door rather than mere Dr. Long before that, when I was 12, I visited a child psychiatrist, although my mum didn’t actually tell me that’s what he was until many years later. Oddly, I remember far more about the latter than the former, but whatever they did, I recovered to some degree. I mean, I was still a few sandwiches short of a picnic – these days I’m short of everything that goes in the picnic basket, hence basket case, presumably – and I got on with life. In other words, there was treatment available for people who were mentally unwell. But to compare those days with today is comparing apples to oranges.

For one thing, when I was unwell as a child, no one talked about mental health. You were told to snap out of it and stop feeling sorry for yourself. I experienced plenty of that, including from within my own family. I did get treatment but it can only have been sticking plaster because today everything that went on before, aside from the night terrors, carries on today. Things like autism, ADHD and virtually every other mental health issue didn’t exist and so people, like me, almost certainly had conditions that were never even assessed never mind diagnosed. People will have had depression and anxiety, but people were merely fed up and had ‘bad nerves’. It’s entirely possible that the equivalent number of people back in the old days were sick but untreated as they are today. More than possible, I suggest. Pretty well certain.

My guess is that as more conditions were properly recognised and understood, that mental health care did not grow accordingly. Maybe I was seen by psychiatrists back in the day because hardly anyone else went to them. What I do know today is that beyond basic talk therapies there lies nothing unless you are sick enough to require sectioning. So now some eight million people struggle on, knowing that there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

I so want to be ‘normal’, or mentally well, but I know that short of a large lottery win to buy private care, or a descent into madness that sees me sectioned, it’s drugs or nothing. It’s feeling crap for a lot of the time, it’s not wanting to go out and socialise, not being able to sleep properly, being unable to concentrate and all the other things that can make life so hard. This is not a cry for help because there is no help available. Christ, I waited two years to get on an NHS waiting list to be assessed for ADHD and I’m no nearer being seen than I was what is now three years ago. My GP and various councillors have long suspected undiagnosed conditions but all I can do is wait and hope I get assessed before I die. The way things are going, I’m not optimistic about that happening.

When politicians boast about how much they are investing in mental health treatments, they are lying. In my experience, things are far worse today than they have ever been in my lifetime. And thanks to Boris Johnson, the NHS is being pared to the bone, by way of what I suggest is a managed decline with a view to privatising it.

You would never treat cancer patients with the disdain meted out to those with poor mental health because no one needs convincing that curing cancer is a good thing. Mental health? Well, that’s something else. Do the bare minimum and hope no one other than the mentally ill notices. After all, it’s only people feeling sorry for themselves, isn’t it?

Eight million people condemned to miserable lives, with no hope that things will get better. Depressing, isn’t it?