Thursday, February 5, 2015

Scrambling for access.

Mental Health awareness campaigns trigger a lot of anger in me.

First, I want to say that visibility and the ability to name our experiences (and disabilities) openly is important. It's important to hear people's stories and for those without mental health issues to hear how devastating living with / surviving depression can be. I hope that hearing personal accounts and understanding how pervasive mental illnesses are lead to a more open dialogue and to a more empathetic view of these issues.

Having said all of this, these campaigns - for me - bring forth a lot of resentment.

A lot of front-line mental health services are there for those in crisis. This is important. My issue is with what comes next, namely, the silence that greets you when you are no longer in crisis.

I called a suicide hotline once. I had been unemployed for months and was feeling especially useless. The operator had a warm, soothing voice and she didn't have to say much in order for me to finally cry (I don't cry. My depression is painful but I am often despondent and very far from my ability to cry and release tension). Her next move was to ask me to call a friend. I lied about calling a friend next and then survived the night.

The big picture over the next few months involved my struggle to find English free or sliding-scale mental health services in and around Montreal.

If you'd like to picture the ensuing shit-show google "two girls one cup."

Basically: there are very few free services available to Anglophones in the Montreal area.

Highlights include:

  • The West Island support group where I was the only female-identified person, at which I listened to one guy talk loudly about himself for over an hour (we were 7). The group moderator did not moderate shit. Including racist and misogynist comments. Considering the long trek out there and the abysmal experience I never returned.
  • The Concordia psychiatry department and it's free services. Oh fun. This means you're therapy is with a student. Mine was about 19 and immediately looked like a deer in the headlights within a minute of my sitting down. I understand kids need to learn but this was a total train-wreck of an experience. Disheartening to the max.
  • Various phone calls and emails to orgs of all kinds, most of which couldn't even refer me elsewhere.
  • French-only websites and services. 

* Though I am fluent in French, I asked if they knew of English support groups or services (since talking about issues is hard enough and wanting to do so in your mother-tongue means having the ability to use precise language in a more natural, effortless way.

I also contacted various therapists, and asked about sliding-scale services. I got a lot of negatives.

Finally I was referred to The Argyle. The services were not free but I was able to access sliding-scale services. I saw a lovely counsellor who I'll call A for about 10 sessions. This helped me a great deal. What sucked was the limit to sessions with the same counsellor. This totally negates the report we build.

Unfortunately A had to go back to school. This also sucks because I liked her tremendously. So I’m back to seeking services, ideally something long-term so I can feel I have a support structure around me.

Asking for help is the first step. But it is the first step in an uphill battle.

I wish strength and resolve to those going through similar struggles.

First you survive yourself, then you do everything you can to make that easier tomorrow. Unfortunately you'll have to rely on yourself for a lot of the work, an irony that pains me considering we ourselves are the problem.

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