I’m still waiting

by Rick Johansen

It’s a big anniversary for me today. Exactly two weeks ago, I sent one of those on-line messages to the local health centre, requesting some help and guidance with regard to my mental health, or lack of it. On the same day, I got the following message:

Many thanks for contacting us today. We will arrange a call with your GP to discuss this & decide the best course of action. We will get back to you to arrange, please bear with us. Kind regards.’

As Diana Ross so astutely put it, “I’m still waiting.”

I thought it actually a rather nice message, despite starting with, “Hi Richard“. How many times have I asked them to change it to my preferred name, Rick, I cannot even begin to imagine. A few deep breaths later and I’m over it. Until next time. Anyway, I conceded, at least they got back to me within a few hours and it was all positive like “(we will) decide the next course of action.” But then I had my doubts.

What do they mean, “your GP”? I don’t have an actual GP as such. I haven’t had one for years. The last GPs to call me were here today, gone tomorrow locums (not their fault) and it’s difficult to cultivate a medical relationship in about two minutes with someone you have never met. It went something like this:

  • “How can I help you?”
  • “Well, I’ve had mental health issues since I was 12. You can probably see my medical history in front of you. Anyway, I’m not doing too well at the moment …”
  • “Sorry, we’re out of time, I’m afraid, NEXT PATIENT?”

Obviously, not really but that’s what it feels like. I don’t know about you but I rather like speaking to a GP I have known for years, who knows all my foibles and doesn’t require me to explain over 50 years of depression, anxiety, panic attacks and now ADHD in 30 seconds. They might as well have the Countdown clock going in the background. But this time, even that would have been better that what I did get, which was a big fat nothing.

I’m left to imagine the reasons why it has taken two weeks to not come back to me. Is it because I don’t have a single doctor assigned to me? Is it because I got lost in the system? Is it because they think I’m not a suicide risk, so they can put me at the back of the line? Is it some or all of these things?

The truth, my truth, is that making contact was a waste of time. It always is. I know really that there is nothing that the NHS can offer me, beyond drugs and a few weeks of counselling. When they do make contact, probably after I’ve sent them a reminder, the GP usually says something like, “I’ve got a keen interest in mental health. Here’s a list of websites which I know will be of fuck all use to you, but it’s all we have.” The truth is that unless you’re a rich celebrity or sportsperson, who can afford private care, why don’t you just run along now and read the courageous story of someone who reached out for help, got it, has got better and now urges others to do what s/he does, even when they can’t afford it. Thanks for that.

Why I put myself through this nonsense I have no idea. 100 years ago – at least it feels like 100 years ago – when I was unwell, I was referred to Southmead Hospital and saw a consultant, an actual Mister, not a mere doctor. Mr Steve, as I shall call him because his name was Steve, saw me over a number of weeks and diagnosed severe clinical depression, a diagnosis that has been confirmed on umpteen subsequent occasions, though never again by a Mister or in a hospital. These days, it’s hard enough to get on the first rung of the ladder by speaking with a GP. But then, does it matter since beyond a GP, as I have said many times before, there lies nothing?

So, should I bother to follow it all up? Yeah, probably. I’m going to give them a few more weeks and then get the brush-off us mental folk always get. Have a look at this website and mind how you go. It’s only mental health, isn’t it? Not a real illness.

Nothing against the health centre, its GPs and staff or the dear folk who work for our crumbling NHS. It all comes down to whether you believe people should get treated timeously and effectively for their illnesses, physical or mental. All of the above do believe it. Our so called leaders, less so.




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