Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Mental Health Services Are Letting Black People Down BIG TIME

I’m so angry and distraught.

After being rejected by the Islington Personality Disorder Service (London) for treatment last year, I was referred to The Spiral Centre in Islington for low-cost therapy. I applied in December 2017 and was added to their waiting list. I finally had an assessment in May 2018, after which I was told that I would be notified about which therapist I had been allocated to within a matter of weeks.

It is now July and I have still not been allocated to a therapist. When I contacted Spiral, this was their response:

We are very sorry that you have been waiting so long and we haven’t been in touch with you since May. You’re right that our usual waiting time is around three months but this has unexpectedly increased recently because more people are contacting us. We definitely have you on the waiting list and have been looking out for an appropriate vacancy for you. Partly the delay has been that we think that you need to have a more experienced therapist from what you said in the assessment, and we have a smaller number of experienced therapists on the low cost scheme. We will be in touch as soon as are able to offer you a space with a therapist but unfortunately we are not able to predict when that will be, you are near the top of the waiting list.
Please do contact us again with any questions.
All good wishes

The reason why I have highlighted part of the response in red, is because I didn’t tell them anything new in the assessment that I hadn’t told them in my original application. In fact, I was extremely upfront in my application about my mental health having deteriorated due to racial trauma.

While on Spiral’s waiting list, I was seeing a Private Therapist, which my girlfriend was paying for due to my low income, however I stopped seeing this therapist partly because I no longer wanted to rely upon my girlfriend for money – she’s my partner, not my mother or the guardian of my mental health – but also because after the assessment, Spiral had assured me that I wouldn’t have to wait long for my sessions to start. Hence, from that, I began to wind down my sessions with the Private Therapist before coming to a complete end, under the assumption that I would be picked up by Spiral.

Now I’ve been left with nothing.

I’m furious with Spiral, because although I sympathise that they are a small organisation, they do still have a duty of care to people like me who are on their waiting list and have been fed empty promises. When I brought this up with them in my response to their’s above, they admitted that they had fucked up, however I just had to wait.

Great.

The fact that I am currently studying Mental Health and Psychology also seems to be a double edged sword, because although I’m learning about the mind and educating myself for my future, I’m also seen as a high-functioning patient because of the subject I am studying, which is ridiculous. Even qualified therapists are required to have their own therapeutic support. Furthermore, many people in therapy make the assumption that I know more than trainee therapists, which is untrue; I’m not yet training to be a therapist, I’m still in the very early stages of my career, hence I am nowhere near as qualified as a trainee therapist.

In the meantime, I’ve contacted The Gestalt Centre in Kings Cross, London. However, I’ve now been told that some applicants wait up to a year or more to be allocated to a therapist. I’m now currently on their waiting list too.

Both Spiral, and The Gestalt Centre have given me a list of organisations to contact in the meantime, however out of the list the latter sent to me, the majority don’t even apply to me (!!!!!!) and the list from Spiral is the same exhausted list I was sent by the Islington Personality Service last year.

So, a year after my mental health breakdown, I am still in the same place as I was – rejected by the NHS for help and struggling with my mental health. I have an assignment due this week and I cannot even bring myself to get out of bed to do any work. I am mentally exhausted.

What is most exhausting is the discrimination when it comes to therapy and counselling: the Personality Service rejected me because they bought into the stereotypes of me being a Black woman who is strong enough to find her own resources; my girlfriend and I applied to Tavistock for couples therapy, last month and I was told that not only would it be offensive to talk about racism to a white therapist and that my requesting a black therapist to counteract this would be offensive to white therapists, I was also told that my girlfriend’s “trans issues” are of a higher importance than my trauma caused by historical and daily racism.

As a Black woman in Britain, struggling with her mental health, there is nothing for me. One of the reasons why I’m doing this MSc and planning on then training to be a Black Therapist in the UK, is because WE NEED MORE BLACK THERAPISTS IN THE UK. There are thousands of Black British people like me who are struggling with generational, historical, as well as current racism on a daily basis. The problem with white therapists is although they are bound by ethics, their white fragility is still triggered by talking about the Black experience. I was once told by a white therapist that I was offending her, just for talking about how I was being treated at work for the colour of my skin. Furthermore, white people just cannot understand or empathise with the Black experience (and the majority even seem to be incapable of simple sympathy), partly because they are so blinded by white privilege: how many times are we as Black people told that “historical racism is not an issue because it’s in the past” and therefore we should “get over it and stop living with a chip on our shoulder”? How many times are we as Black Britons told that our experience is nowhere near as traumatic as that of the Black American experience, therefore we should be grateful? How many times are we told that we are “just looking for racism that doesn’t even exist”? How many times are we told that just by talking about racism or mentioning it, we are “playing the race card”?

How many of you know how fucking traumatic all of this is to us as Black people?

You tend to conveniently forget that we are fucking human beings.

On top of apparent BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), I’m also still struggling with body dysphoria and bulimia (I fight every day to not make myself sick after meals, because of my meds, but sometimes it’s hard to control, especially when you grew up doing it), as well as the depression that comes with having to live with a chronic condition. All while struggling with the psychological impacts of racism.

So, in regards to the mental health, I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do. My student loan barely even covers my tuition fees, let alone basic living; same with the benefits I am currently on for my Epilepsy. I’m sure I’ll figure something out… Black people always do, right?

Hopefully my mental health won’t consume me in the meantime.

XOXO

P.S. If you are Black and struggling with your mental health, AND can afford Private Therapy, please do contact a therapist via The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network. Some also offer reduced rates, depending on your level of income.
P.P.S. So I’ve just finished reading Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou and wanted to share this quote as it relates to well to what I was saying about seeing a white therapist:
I used up my Kleenex and took more from my purse. No, I couldn’t tell him [the white psychiatrist] about living inside a skin that was hated or feared by the majority of one’s fellow citizens or about the sensation of getting on a bus on a lovely morning, felling happy and suddenly seeing the passengers curl their lips in distaste or avert their eyes in revulsion. No, I had nothing to say to the doctor. I stood up. 
Here’s another quote from the play Leave Taking, by Winsome Pinnock:
Enid: What doctor know about our illness? Just give you a few pills to sick your stomach and a doctor certificate. What they know about a black woman soul. 
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Author:

I’m Cece Alexandra and I have Epilepsy. Since being diagnosed, my life has changed significantly. After studying and teaching Humanities and Literature for all of my adult life, I was bullied and lost my job a month before qualifying to become an English Teacher. Once you fail the Teacher Training course in England, you cannot ever retrain; I then became too sick to work because of my Epilepsy. I am now currently studying an MSc in Mental Health Psychology with the University of Liverpool. My disability provokes me into raising awareness for invisible disabilities, which I also actively partake in with Epilepsy Action. Part of that awareness is to help fight against invisible disability discrimination - I believe that this behaviour is not cognitively unconscious; modern society is actively partaking in a hierarchy of disabilities and I believe that there is not enough psychological research to prove this. I am also clinically interested in Cultural Psychology - particularly Collectivist Culture, and wish to pursue this further in my academic career.

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