Tag Archives: Purple Noise Blog

Suicide, Self Harm and the NHS

I remember my school days with mixed feelings, however, I do remember certain attitudes and phrases that have lived with me or that I remember fondly or otherwise.

One such phrase was a sarcastic one which was used by my economics teacher. He always talked of the “Angels”.  Never say anything against the “Angels” he would say.

The Angels were of the course the NHS nurses.  They could do no wrong, neither could the Doctors.  Of course this is only true until a politician decides stigmatising a profession or other suits their course, but that is another story.

In the past few years I have come to see health professionals in a different light as my dealings have turned from specifically a “user” to someone who has to liaise with and discuss aspects of NHS and voluntary sector mental health services.

Suicide and Self harm are some of the most extreme actions committed by those in mental distress, and listening to the torment that those who inflict harm on themselves feel can be disturbing and heartbreaking.

It is hard for those whose experience in life does not include extreme mental anguish, anxiety and depression, to understand the mentality of taking actions that actively harms ones self.  It is perhaps beyond the logic of the “well” mind.

It is for this reason that many suffering such illnesses do not like to engage some health services.  They do not want sympathy, but perhaps respond better to empathy, from those in a position of understanding.  Indeed some experience of our health services lead people into a cycle of worse mental health as a result of that engagement with the professionals in health provision.

It is a sad thing to say, but many in the NHS do not understand or indeed care about the mental health conditions that they come into contact with on a daily basis.  It may well be a minority, but it comes up with such regularity that it is hard not to conclude it is a real problem.

The stories of those treated with a lack of respect or a lot worse can be seen all over the internet.  It is remarkable in this day and age that there is not some cross over of training to include the mentally distressed when they come into contact with other health professionals.

Stories of a person having a heart attack and being taken to hospital for treatment, to be faced with a Doctor who see’s scars of self harm and proceeds to lecture the patient and to say he did not want to treat the patient and why are they wasting their time .  Treating the patient with disrespect, disregard and insulting them.

On other occasions such treatment has led to suicide attempts.

Then there are the stories of those who attend hospital due to a self harming episode to be again insulted for “wasting” their time and deliberately making a shoddy job of the “treatment”, causing yet more anguish.

There are additional stories of refusing to use pain killing treatment because of the idea that if it hurts sufficiently they won’t come back!

Then there are those within the mental health profession themselves, who are so stretched, or that have such skewed priorities and rules that even knowing patients require help, they refuse them on the basis that a time limit has been reached.

If anyone was unaware, mental health conditions do not heal themselves to a time table.

If you would like to see the effects of some of these issues have a look at the PurpeNoise blog where some of the issues are graphically illustrated.


Some people tell me that mental health issues are no longer “stigmatised” or that our mental health provision is “a lot better than it used to be”.  The proof of the pudding as they is in the eating, and I am beginning to have my fill.

Stigmatisation is still apparent, in corners of our society that would surprise many people, and the mentally ill are still the first to be cast adrift in society when the chips are down.

If this would surprise you, then look at the details of the new Employment Support Allowance and the glee with which the tabloids miss represent stories of who is available for work following the new “assessment” procedures.

Those with depression and other mental illnesses are the least able to “shout loudest” to get what they need.  Yet the new assessments are designed exactly for this reason in mind.  It is not about need, but about saving money, no matter who suffers.

This is not political, all parties are sharing the helm on this policy, and it sickens me.

So, for the many “Angels” who do their job without prejudice and professionally, showing consideration and sympathy, please continue your superb hard work and teach the others in your profession the way human beings are supposed to behave.

Compassion is not a dirty word.



Changes Bristol are an organisation, running support groups for those suffering from mental distress. This article was written for an edition of the internal newsletter on the 17th January

Article Author: Sarah Rudston

The news of the benefit cuts has been somewhat unavoidable recently (unless you‟ve been living with your head in a bucket and believe me, I am tempted to start…). “75% of people on disability benefits are able to work!” scream the Daily Mail, forgetting to mention that according to the current testing methods, if you are able to pick up an empty kettle you are apparently able to hold down a full-time job… Those who are going to be hit hardest seem to be those who are less capable of defending themselves, with the impending measures to cut Disability Living Allowance and the enforced testing of those currently receiving Incapacity Benefit and ESA.  As I am someone who has previously applied for ESA (and been rejected, no surprise there…) as well as having many friends who are unwell and unable to work, the news has not been pleasant reading in the slightest.

Furthermore to the bleak outlook peddled by the news media, I have also been disturbed by the accounts of sheer terror, despair and helplessness as shown on mental health websites and personal blogs. I recently read an account written by a woman who is so traumatised by the thought of losing her benefits and therefore her home, that she has stated she will end her life should it happen. (See here, but I will warn you, it is harrowing reading, http://purple-noise.blogspot.com/2011/01/beginning-of-end.html). I was so shocked and appalled that I posted the link to my Facebook in the hope that maybe someone would share my feelings.

Unfortunately, the first response I got was from a friend of a friend, and here it is: “Sorry to play the Devils Advocate but this is Darwins Law at work. It may not be pretty but it is true. In times of hardship the strong will prosper and the weak….”

The ellipses are used to avoid stating what he obviously meant: that the “weak” will die as a result of what‟s happening, and this is the only way things could be. Happily, he did not go unchallenged and I was reminded of why he is only a friend of a friend (and enjoyed some very pleasing daydreams of him turning up at a Changes meeting and being pelted with coffee mugs and goal books).

I couldn‟t avoid thinking about the incident, however, and how many people perceive those with mental health difficulties. I know how hard it is to live in battle with your own mind, but what makes it so much harder is the lack of understanding from others: the “pull your socks up” attitude, the discomfort, neglect and even scorn that comes from others after mentioning you live with a mental health problem. This all leads to a massive amount of misunderstanding which penetrates our society from the low level insults from someone you don‟t know, to the people at the top who make the decisions about how you live your life.

If we do not challenge those who see us as “weak” or “scrounging”, then we risk the attitude continuing to the point where lives will be lost through ignorance.  It is frightening to contemplate what will happen in the next year, but there is hope. The backlash against the decisions has already been enormous. You can see its progress by following these blogs: Where‟s the Benefit?, The Broken of Britain, the superbly named Benefit Scrounging Scum and One Month Before Heartbreak, a response to the proposed consultation about DLA reform which is happening on the 14th February.

The collected voices are heartening to read: there is a lot of anger, passion and well-reasoned arguments. The feeling is this: If the people at the top were counting on people being too “weak” to fight back, they’re in for a surprise.



Where‟s the Benefit?                                                http://wheresthebenefit.blogspot.com/

The Broken of Britain                                 http://thebrokenofbritain.blogspot.com/

Benefit Scrounging Scum http://benefitscroungingscum.blogspot.com/

One Month Before Heartbreak