Someone has asked me to post this for them - they wish to remain anonymous.
As of November 1st, those of us with a "severe and persistent mental illness" (I'm using official political lingo here) who rely on Better Access to keep our heads above water will be forced to take a minimum of 2 month therapy break. We're calling ourselves the 13%ers. That's because we're the 13% of people using Better Access who use more than 10 Medicare funded sessions per year. Apparently, being in this minority percentage means that we're not important enough to consider when readjusting mental health spending. We're only about 87,000 people, so they're just going to chop our services for an extended Christmas break. This would be nice if I could take holiday leave from my illness, but unfortunately the "boss" doesn't approve. So instead, for Christmas it's just going to be me and my illness, with no safety net, no tapering down period, nothing. Just a November 1st cutoff with no appropriate options for support until the following year.
The last time I was exited from a supportive mental health program without a safety net in place, I attempted suicide.
Obviously, I failed miserably (but I did learn a few things about how I might do it right next time). I ended up in hospital for a few weeks and got drugged out of my brain until I started hallucinating. I then had to go through god awful withdrawals, and many of those months after my discharge are still a drugged out blur. They drugged me this much because they seemed to think I wasn't taking the severity of my illness seriously enough. This was because I didn't want drugs, I wanted therapy. I might add, I was the one that checked myself into hospital in the first place (my suicide attempt failed so miserably that I didn't even need medical attention, but after seeing the distress it caused my friends I did figure I probably needed to get some help so once I was lucid again I made a few calls). Had I not told them about the severity of my situation, they wouldn't have known. It was a great lesson in realising it's best not to ask for help unless it's from someone I trust. And boy do I no longer trust the mental health system, particularly psychiatrists.
I trust my psychologist though.
My psychologist is incredibly skilled at preventing me from getting to that point where I'm willing to swallow all the pills I've collected over the years from psychiatrists who are more than happy to dole them out to me to fix my "chemical imbalance" (even though none of them can actually agree on which kind of chemical imbalance I have, or which kind of pills I should be swallowing, or whether they should just zap my brain instead). For me, early intervention has come to mean getting to my psychologist before the shit hits the fan. But too bad if things start to slide after November 1st. My psychologist may start to regret having put his mobile number on his business card (although my anxiety about making phone calls will probably keep him safe from that).
It makes me think of the year I had chronic tonsilitis. Imagine if at an arbitrary date the pharmacist had announced, "Sorry, but you've had your maximum allowance of antibiotics for the year. Come back in two months and let's just hope that infection hasn't spread" Imagine the outrage! Denied access to the most basic and essential care, which could potentially lead to death (yes, that happened from infections before penicillin was discovered, and can happen to someone who is chronically suicidal if their support network is taken away). And as far as I'm concerned, that is all seeing my psychologist is: the most basic and essential care I can receive for my chronic mental illness to stop it from turning into anything worse. And trust me, a chronic mental illness is a lot more painful than chronic tonsilitis.
So, I wonder, what's going to happen to us 13%ers over our extended Christmas break? Will our "infections" spread? Here's hoping not, because if the others are anything like me, they won't want to be banging on any hospital and/or psychiatrists' doors. And not because we lack "insight" into our condition, but because we have a great deal of insight into the sheer incompetence rampant in the profession. It makes me wonder though, is this what the Government wants? To get us out of the system so we stop costing them money, while they can parade around declaring what a wonderful job they have done on mental health reform? The joke's on them though, because I can guarantee I'll still be collecting my disability payment, and with only 10 sessions with a psychologist a year from now on, it's quite likely I'll be collecting this payment for many more years than would've been necessary were the new changes not put into place. Better Access is the best program I know of to facilitate recovery, and therefore reducing sessions is effectively reducing recovery rates. I think it's about time the Government stopped skimping on essential services and started realising us 13%ers are not the people to be taking services away from. Talk about targeting the weakest of the bunch! Here's hoping we can show them we're not the weak target they were hoping for.
But at this point, all I can say is good luck in the following months my fellow 13%ers. I've got a feeling we're going to need it!