Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Letters from America, self harm, SSRIs

Radio legend Cooke dies aged 95 is the BBC's report of this surprisingly sad news. I found the Letter from America dull and irritating, but now that Alistair Cooke (which I always thought was spelt Alistair Cook, and it really bugs me to get that kind of thing wrong) has died, I do feel sad. He was an institution really, and I guess it's the end of an era. And the beginning of incessant re-runs of the whole 56 years of letters :-S

Today it was also announced that there is to be an inquiry into self harm in young people in the UK. Apparently more people self harm in the UK than anywhere else in Europe, and women / girls are 7 times more likely to self injure than men / boys.

I think an official inquiry is long overdue and certainly to be welcomed, though I'm already not feeling entirely positive about it, and it was only launched today!

Firstly, their website is very much aimed at "professionals" rather than those of us who do self-harm, and thus have considerably more expertise on the subject. This, and the fact that it seems the panel seems that it will also be mainly made up of professionals, leaves me less than confident that this inquiry and its results and recommendations will be centred around US, those it is talking about!

The other thing I find troublesome about this inquiry is that it, as with every bloody other thing in the world (well, maybe not, but ya know...), is about under 25s. This ubiquitous assumption that on our 25th birthdays we mysteriously and abruptly stop hurting ourselves, stop wanting to attend or join groups, stop caring about certain campaigns, is totally invisiblising (?!) and invalidating to those of us who are (gasp) actually 26 or over.

It is hard enough to counter the myth that all those who self harm are teenagers, the implication being that it is a "phase" to "grow out of", but when the one and only inquiry on the subject in the history of ever, implicitly suggests that, it annoys me immensely.

My own take on self harm (or self injury, or self mutilation, or self abuse, or whichever of the multitude of things people call it) can be found on the PurplePippa website. Saves me ranting even more here ;)

The other big mental health news here in the UK is that doctors are feeling "forced" to prescribe anti-depressants due to a lack of alternatives available. A massive 80% of them feel they are giving out too many SSRIs because not enough help like counselling or therapy is available.

Disgusting situation. Referrals for help can take months or years and this is clearly inappropriate for people in acute crisis, which is when people would be most likely to consult their GP I would imagine. And the ironic (or disturbing?) thing is that if people received immediate support, I believe that in many cases the problems would be resolved fairly quickly, with having had someone to talk to and learn new coping strategies with. As it is, say it takes 2 years for an appointment, by this stage, what was initially a problem of, say, stress at work, or relationship breakdown, could well have become much more serious and long-term, due to having no help (other than not-so-pretty pills) for such a long time while in distress.

So, if money is the motive (which it damn well shouldn't be), see people within 2 weeks of referral, and there would be fewer people needing long-term support or help. I reckon.

Apologies for so much ranting today, just too many issues much too close to my heart.