Where It’s Spent

“That’s inhuman!” a colleague of mine exclaimed last week. I’m consistently waking around 5.30am, which is abhorrent to most people. Further down the spiral – it skips, morning to morning, between 5.23 and 5.25. An unnerving recurrence; a triumph of chaos theory over mundanity.

I like having more of the day to play with. Early breakfast, cup of tea, washed with clean teeth before the paper arrives. Ready for a productive day, beginning with at least two hours of Warframe. Youtube on in the background, playing old episodes of Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You. My wellspring of political thought.

When I’m not killing Grineer, I’d like to be doing this. Typing. Hopefully something worth reading, by myself and by others. Activism is becoming a significant part of my Me, but a consistent failing, as my untrained eye can observe, is when one occupies a single issue, denying the prismatic facets of simply being here.

So being here. 11.53am. Awake for 6 hours, 28 minutes. Waking and reaching for Marina Keegan’s wondrous The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories. Statistically not my thing, but the quality of her writing, the vibrancy of her personality and intellect shine through. Mournfully, so does the significance of her frustrated promise.

I finished Emma Forrest’s Your Voice in my Head. A memoir of mental illness and recovery which doesn’t entrench itself in the minutiae of mental illness and recovery. Love and sex and family and animals and opportunity and self harm and suicide. The tapestry. Take a tapestry and focus upon several threads. If you’ve lived the way I have these past 30 years, you’ll know how well this works.

Read, write, repeat. I need, I want, to fall in love with words again. Actually this is deceitful – I want to love the words of others, which is why (at the start of 4.0) these authors are wellsprings of optimism.

30 years. 6.5 hours. What’s inhuman is not the time you’ve lost. There’s no inherent glory in any time you might have gained. Just don’t frustrate the promise of every second you collapse into.


E-mail to my MP

Mind recently published the disturbing results of a University of Manchester study into suicide rates amongst NHS service users receiving treatment at home. I wanted to make sure my MP knew about this:


Dear Ms Hodge,

As both a constituent and an NHS mental health service user, I felt it appropriate to bring these recent findings to your attention.

On July 4th the mental health charity Mind posted the results of a University of Manchester study showing a distressing increase in the number of suicides amongst patients receiving home treatment. The figures focused upon the period 2010 – 2011 which, regrettably, could mean that this terrible statistic has jumped substantially in the interim.

I’ve always championed the care I’ve received from the teams in Barking (especially the excellent work done at the Upney Lane Centre, which I’m unsettled to hear may be closing), but experience has shown me how under pressure and frustrated these critical care givers are. They simply cannot do enough.

In these austere times everybody recognises that services are stretched, but mental health has often seemed to trail behind, despite the increasing impact such conditions are having on the life of our nation. Service users need to have faster, simpler access to teams (even just someone to e-mail in a crisis), with a reduction in the stultifying bureaucracy that sees users left hanging while their referral crawls through the system. Trust me, sometimes we cannot be left waiting.

I first entered the system in 2001, aged 17. I was passed back and forth between the GP, hospital referrals and local mental health teams for so long that I completely imploded. I had a very dramatic suicide attempt in July of that year, which saw my mother plead that I be sectioned. I was, it saved my life, but I could only get into a private clinic in Chelmsford; and only after I’d nearly died.

I’ve clawed my life together again. I am in full time employment and in a position where I can start giving something back. While the quality of the service has improved, I know from the community that it still falls short far too often. When I was 17 what I needed more than anything was a confidential, sympathetic and easy to access service I could simply call or talk to. GPs tend to be dismissive and checklist-obsessive, and the referral system takes far too long.

As a culture we are failing in our responsibility to some of our most vulnerable. We should be promoting volunteer groups who (with the support and experience of and appropriate, constructive training by the service) can visit schools and colleges; making young people aware that help is available, even if its just a e-mail address. I’m a profound atheist, but I believe local church groups could play a useful role in this. Prevention is better than cure. Cruel experience has taught me this.

I know this is asking a lot, and I imagine there are significant legal, social, medical, financial and other factors involved. All that service users are asking, as a constituency, is that someone is actually looking into ways of making the service more adaptable and efficient with less of a focus upon targets and red tape which have, and I must emphasise this, killed people.

Here is a link to the recent Mind article: National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness.

Thank you for your time,