The Politics of Mental Health Care

It’s been a while, folks. I hope you’re all well. Since we last spoke a lot has happened. I’m currently a parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats in the upcoming Scottish elections. As part of this I attended a hustings last night. This involved myself and representatives from other parties being on a panel and having members of the audience ask us questions about our manifestos and what we would do if elected to the Scottish parliament. In discussion with folk afterwards I had one individual come to me and tell me they were particularly sick of “politicians like you[me]” politicising mental health and using it as a way to point score and make empty promises to gain support from the electorate.

I’ll be honest with you, it floored me. What this individual couldn’t know was that from that event I was heading straight to a friend’s house to spend the night because she was having a really bad day with her depression and asked if I’d come to her because she needed someone who just “got it”. I had two emails waiting for responses from people asking how I’d maneuvered the current mental health system because they were struggling and I had an ongoing facebook conversation with someone requiring support causing my phone to silently go off in my bag the entire evening.

They couldn’t know I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety after leaving school at the age of 18, after having gone to the doctor repeatedly since I was about 15. Having missed more days of school than I should have for feigning other illnesses because the reality of ‘I don’t actually want to exist right now’ wasn’t enough to warrant a permitted absence from the school.

I developed a self harm addiction after my diagnosis because the current system left me to my own devices and I couldn’t find a safe coping mechanism.

I was diagnosed in September of 2011. I was put on a waiting list for psychiatry shortly after that. I was seen for the first time by a psychiatrist in February of 2013.

I was told by the psychiatrist I needed to see the psychologist as well as regular meetings with him. He also told me the psychologist had no space so I was seeing the community psychiatric nurse. The CPN who told me I ‘failed’ every day I didn’t get changed out of pyjamas. Who gave me weird homework as part of cognitive behaviour therapy and screamed “THIS WILL WORK FOR YOU. YOU AREN’T TRYING HARD ENOUGH” when I told her I didn’t find it helpful. The CPN  who then asked if she could discuss my ‘lack of co-operation’ with my mother because she knew my her. I eventually saw the psychologist when I told my psychiatrist that I would not see the CPN again after how I’d been treated.

I have lost count of the times I seriously contemplated suicide. I was taken to hospital because of self harm. I phoned 999 because I knew I’d attempt to kill myself if I didn’t get help in that moment. I got taken to A&E where I was told I was a drain on the NHS.

I’m passionate about this and it’ll be a very long time before I’m quiet on the issue. I don’t want my future children to grow up in a world where any mental health issue is considered anything less than on par with physical conditions. If I had tonsillitis I could go to the doctor tomorrow and if the situation warranted it get medication to help. I wouldn’t need to wait until my tonsils were necrotic and posing a threat to my life. Yet I waited a year and a half to be seen by a professional for a condition that gave me compelling urges to kill myself. If I can help even one person have a less horrible time then I’ll have done something important. Is this a political issue? Yes. Is that the only reason I talk about it at length and will continue to do so? Absolutely not.

The thing is we can’t wait. Mental health funding in Scotland falling every year since 2009 and the Scottish Government’s mental health strategy expiring at the end of last year it’ll be months before a new plan is in place.

The other day my dad said to me “The thing is most people aren’t as vocal as you are on mental health” and I was reminded of Willie Rennie’s speech to Conference in February. He said “We cannot wait any longer for change. For thousands of people who are crying out for help and for the many who cannot be heard anymore because we were simply too late.”


(Also because I’d be a bad candidate if I didn’t mention it, if you’re interested in exactly what the Scottish Liberal Democrats are proposing please check out If you’d like to email me to discuss anything you can do so at


Women in Politics

(Before we get started I’d like to point out that I’ve not censored myself in terms of my language in this post like I normally would.)

I don’t think I’ve ever been more angry than I am just now on such a topic.

We talk constantly about “How do we get more women interested in politics?” And we get thrown answers like “All women shortlists!”

How about we get more women interested in politics by not boiling them down to their sexuality and their body and their attractiveness? How about we see things like this and shut it the fuck down.

Frankie has done a wonderful job in defending herself and I don’t see the need to continue further. If there’s one thing Frankie Leach does not need is help in speaking her mind. She’s wonderfully eloquent in that respect. But I can’t not say something.

The idea that Frankie got anywhere by performing sexual acts on older gentlemen – like one commenter put a lot more graphically than that – is entirely the reason we do not have more women interested in politics.

Frankie got somewhere because she’s an attractive young lady, heaven forbid she has a brain. Whilst we’re at it… why HASN’T Nicola Sturgeon had children? I wonder how much Liz Kendall weighs. Psst… did you hear that Ruth Davidson is a lesbian?

You want more women in politics? You want a more representative parliament instead of it being heavily male dominated? Then don’t stand idly by when things like this happen. Don’t sit and think “Huh they have a point…” when you hear any of these things or the much worse levelled against women in politics in any capacity. Or if you do then start to ask the same damn questions about our male counterparts. Let’s question Jeremy Corbyn’s weight or why Alex Salmond has no children. I wonder who Tim Farron had to blow to get the job… or does that sound utterly ridiculous? Because it should do. It’s the exact same when you ask these questions of women.

You exist because of women, it’s damn well time you started respecting them.

Decide for yourself.

Last night the Buddy Project posted on Twitter the reasons why you shouldn’t go and see the new horror film “The Forest”. The Buddy Project is something that operates out of Philadelphia and pairs people as ‘buddies’ for support and awareness of mental health issues. Now, I have a lot of love in my heart for projects and organisations like this. If it wasn’t for a non-government support organisation I’d have probably been in a much worse place mentally than I am today – if I was here at all. However, I’m struggling to understand why they would try and take the decision away from sufferers on whether or not they go and see this film.

The Buddy Project says that you should not go see this film because it’s profiting on the long string of suicides at the Aokigahara Forest in Japan. This forest has been nicknamed the “suicide forest” because for years people have gone there to take their own life. It’s vast and if you stray from the marked paths you will soon find yourself lost. Now, this is a tragic area with a lot of lost lives there. Many of whom never had their bodies recovered because they simply couldn’t be found. It’s the perfect basis for a horror film. Myths and legends have floated about around this forest because of it’s fateful history and continuing use. The Buddy Project then says it’s disrespectful to make a horror film from that and you wouldn’t make a film based on the Jonestown Massacre. Only in 2013 that’s exactly what happened. It was called The Sacrament.

Horror films profiting from real life events are not a new phenomenon. Hell, even Dracula has its base in reality. “The Zodiac Killer”? A film and a real life event. “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”? Yeah, that was based on a real girl called Anneliese Michel who was subjected to an exorcism that lasted 10 months because she was believed to be demonically possessed. Even “The Hills Have Eyes” was based of a 16th Century story of a Sawney Bean, the patriarch of a cannibal family in Scotland! Cannibalism, murder, exorcisms. All real life events. All horrendous. All something which if we were to apply the same logic to shouldn’t be used for profit. Part of a horror film’s psychological thrill is that it’s based on real events. You can tell yourself over and over whilst watching it “It’s not real, it’s a film.” but at the same time in the back of your mind you know that it’s at least inspired by real life events.

I hate to say this because it sounds cruel and I’ll most likely get a lot of flack for it but unfortunately the world is not going to bend to you. I’m aware that for a lot of people The Forest would be a highly triggering piece of cinema but if that’s the case of course use your judgement on whether or not it’s a good idea for you to watch it. The storylines of Game of Thrones are something I’m aware would be particularly triggering for me which is why I avoid it. I don’t try and prevent those around me from watching it however. I also don’t prevent people who’ve had similar experiences to me from watching it either. The Forest is no different to any other horror film based – even loosely – on reality. Horror films are something that people enjoy – although maybe that’s the wrong word – and just because you disagree with the content doesn’t make it wrong.

My main concern with the likes of the Buddy Project putting this out there is that it’ll only reinforce the stigma surrounding mental health issues and suicide. Complaining about something that doesn’t fit your world ideals doesn’t open up the channel of communication about it. It shuts it down. You complaining about the themes of The Forest only adds to the whole “suicide is something we shouldn’t talk about” notion that we seem to have in our world. You putting out that feeling will make someone less likely to want to talk to you about how they feel.

I’ve titled this post “Decide for yourself” but I’m not talking solely about whether or not you go and see this film. I’m talking about not letting organisations make your mind up about something, your ability to think for yourself is one that is important. It’s important in general but it’s incredibly important in your mental health recovery. Take the control back, don’t just pass it to someone else.

Also I’m aware a lot of people find my blog in search of mental health coping strategies and for help with suicidal thoughts. Here are helpines for the top 3 countries that visit my blog on a regular basis

UK – 116 123 (Samaritans)
0800 838587 (Breathing Space)

USA – 1-800-273-8255 (Suicide Prevention Lifeline)

Australia – 13 11 14 (Lifeline)

Dear Ken Livingstone

Let me tell you a story.  It’s a story of someone deeply disturbed. He’s the former mayor of London and he believes it’s perfectly okay to lash out at health concerns of people who disagree with him…. oh wait… that’s you.

I was 18 when I was diagnosed with depression. The following couple of years are ones I hope to never have the equal of. I got addicted to self harm. I spent hours staring vacantly at the television from the moment my parents left for work til they came home, at least I did the days I could even get out of bed. The only thing I would watch would be America’s Next Top Model. I’ve no idea why but I think I must have watched almost every episode there is of it. Not that I’d remember since depression has robbed me of parts of my memory.

I’d go walking at 3am once everyone was asleep, in the rain, just so I could feel something. And I got ill then so be it. I didn’t care. I didn’t care about looking before I crossed the road. I didn’t care when I got horrendous oil burns up my arm from cooking. I didn’t care when I was sat in the back of an ambulance with a paramedic attending to my wrist because I’d snapped one day when I was in the house by myself.

I still have depression. It sits on my shoulder and it sucks away at the accomplishment I feel for still being alive. It’s been 3 years since I last hurt myself intentionally. Though as much as I hate to say it, there are flickers of time when I hear such moronic comments like yours, Ken, that I wonder why the hell did I bother to get clean in the first place.

The days of me sitting on my stairs in the dark, crying, bleeding and telling my mother I wanted to be dead may be over. But the impact of depression on my life is what I deal with every single day and will continue to deal with for the rest of my life. But I have a job, I’m in university and I have healthy relationships and friendships. So how dare you suggest that simply because someone has disagreed with you that their illness is behind that?

The old saying of “sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words will never hurt me” is a load of bull. Your words carry weight, regardless of who you are.


Obviously disturbed and should probably see her GP (even though we have regular progress update meetings)

Mental Health – Scotland’s Massive Failure

‘CAMHS referral targets state that no child should wait more than 18 weeks to be seen. Only 78.9% of children are seen within that time frame. When you look at the statistics for 26 weeks only 7% more are seen by then. That means that 14% of children are not seen by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services after half a year. Here’s the response I received on behalf of our First Minister:

“Some successes to date can be seen in the improvement to Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS), where Scottish Government introduced a waiting times target that stated that from March 2013, no one will wait longer than 26 weeks from referral to treatment for specialist CAMHS – and no longer than 18 weeks from December 2014….We appreciate that there is still much room for improvement and we are working with NHS Boards to support their working in this area.”‘

This is an extract from my blog post after I got a response from someone on behalf of our first minister. Continue reading it here.

It’s World Mental Health day so once again I highlight the huge issues Scotland is facing. Not just in its services for children but across the board. Out of a cross section of 100,000, 14% of adults admit to having a mental health problem. That’s those who have been diagnosed. 10% admit to being alcohol dependent and 18% admit to having attempted suicide.

That’s almost 1 in 5 adults in Scotland having attempted suicide if these statistics are accurate. Once again I call for the Scottish Government to seriously look at mental health care in this country and for Nicola Sturgeon to think before she says things like “If you don’t think we’re doing enough in regards to mental health I have to convince you we are.”

Convince me then. As it certainly doesn’t look like we’re doing enough to me.


You’re sitting at home, your family is asleep upstairs and you smell smoke. What’s your first instinct? Is it to save your family and yourself from the burning house? Or is it to stay put and die in a house fire? After all you bought that house. You BELONG there. You don’t have a right to be somewhere else even though it’s safe and where you are isn’t… right? No, of course not. That’s ridiculous.

Yet that’s how we seem to be treating our fellow humans fleeing extreme danger and almost certain death. People that risk their lives in pursuit of safety rather than stay where they are and wait to die. People don’t pile into trucks risking suffocation because of the promise of Job Seeker’s Allowance in the UK. They pile into trucks because whatever they are fleeing from is worse than the danger of suffocating to death.

We have a duty of care to these people as we’re all from the same place. Your nationality means nothing in times of crisis. You are who you are because of an accident of birth. These refugees did not ask to be born into this situation. What they are asking for is help because they’ve got no other option.

You have to be pretty xenophobic to not recognise human suffering in its clearest form.

To return to the analogy of a house fire, would you allow your neighbour to remain in that dangerous situation? After all you need to make sure you have a pair of shoes for work on Monday, you can’t risk spending that money on someone else… or do you possibly see beyond the end of your nose for once and help someone in dire need?

Your Self-Worth

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine last night in which I had my own realisation. How you feel about yourself is infinitely more important than your parents opinion of you, or your partner’s or potential partners, your friends and lastly, complete strangers.

That’s not to say that you should disregard the opinions of those people, however if you believe negative things about yourself then that’s what you put out to the world. Looking just at my past relationships with their toxicity and their control issues – and that’s coming from both sides – I realised that those were the times in my life where I had the worst opinion of myself. Where I was cutting myself regularly. Where I would believe the voices in my head that told me I was a worthless piece of scum and I should take any attention I could get because I was lucky to get any attention at all. I’m happy to report that the last 2 and a half years where I’ve felt much better about myself, all my interactions with people whether it be my relationship or my friendships or family have been much more positive.

Now that’s not some new-age nonsense about “be positive and your issues will go away” because that’s not the case at all. I still have bad moments where I’m down or upset or negative about myself. Positivity alone does not change mental health just like positivity doesn’t make your broken leg heal. And it’s the easiest thing to say when I’m in a good place that you need to be positive because I know from experience that it’s the most infuriating thing to hear when you’re down. So I won’t say that.

But what I will say is that your self-worth is the most important thing. The stranger walking past you on the street seeing you do some daft dance might thing you’re a total moron but that doesn’t mean you’re a total moron. You might embarrass yourself in front of that cute person at the bar who walks off and thinks “What a loser” but that doesn’t make you a loser. Your parents might disagree with what you’re doing with your life but if you feel good about it then that’s all that matters. Although I must say that’s not validation to go out and pull a Burke and Hare and kill people for profit because you feel it’s doing good on some level.

At the end of the day, you’re stuck with you for the entirety of your life. You might want to make peace with who that person is and learn to love them through whatever method you choose. Whether that’s simply an attitude adjustment or something bigger like a change to your eating habits or going to see a psychiatrist. The person you are is more than enough and nobody else’s opinion matters in relation to you but yours.