Why the procedural failures of governmental agencies fail to protect the lives of mental health sufferers.
“I am talking about actual life or death of those who are often completely voiceless in times of crisis, and suffer in utter silence, sadly often unnecessarily leading to suicide.”
The following is based on my experience only, although the extent of how common a scenario like this is was reinforced throughout what I learnt during my PTSD treatment at NHS Maudsley and Oxford University. I personally believe countless people have experienced similarly devastating consequences of such systemic government agency failures, which tragically result in the criminalization of those suffering from undiagnosed mental health conditions, and/or worse still, the incalculable number of preventable suicides.
To this day, I still suffer from what I went through, not so much the fear & trauma of being caught on Koh Phi Phi island (Thailand) during the 2004 Asian tsunami and subsequent 24 hours of search and rescue as a first responder, which I had literally no training for, but more the secondary trauma of returning home to London without any visible physical scars. People thought I was fine just by looking at me and occasionally ”assessing me” in a 5/10 minute general chat. They asked absolutely nothing about what actually happened, how I felt during the most terrifying experience of my life, or how the length of exposure to such extreme physical, as well as emotional trauma, still severely affected me in my day to day life.
I am writing this because I genuinely have survivor’s guilt, not just from the tsunami, but more from surviving the unnecessary secondary trauma I received at the hands of the United Kingdom’s NHS, police, judicial system and correctional services. Despite being almost killed in the Asian Tsunami, the closest I have ever come to death was being driven to suicide due to the systemic procedural failures of the NHS and the police.
To this day it kills me, I know for a fact nothing has changed. I feel so guilty when I read headlines about the deaths of mentally vulnerable people in, or after, police custody or prison. I know how close I was to adding to that statistic, and it’s why I feel ashamed that I haven’t shared my experience earlier to highlight how those who are often ignored are incapable of properly standing up for themselves and suffer terribly in silence. They don’t always have to be unnecessarily locked up. this is why suicide sadly seems the logical answer when you experience how “a system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect” – Dr. W.E.B. DuBois.
This is the just introduction of this post. I have plenty more to write, which will lay the foundations of how I intend to make a stand for change. Over the course of the next few years, as things in my life hopefully become more stable and as I get stronger within myself, I will be dedicating more of my time and effort to highlight how w,e as a society, fail the mentally vulnerable…
… because “I’m only alive today through a series of serendipitous events and actions of some really caring people. Nothing to do with the NHS or mental health policing procedures. I know how close to suicide I was. I should be dead, I think about those that weren’t as lucky and didn’t make it out alive every day. I can speak for them, be their voice, I have some understanding from the “other side.” I’m not a politician, a charity spokesman or government official, I don’t have a career to jeopardize or worry about anymore. Which gives me the opportunity to speak from my heart and tell the truth. I have an international platform where I can voice my opinions to try to help others, who may not have something like the trauma of the Asian tsunami that people can relate and empathize so easily with, and that haven’t been in a prestigious BBC documentary with some of the top PTSD experts in the world. I owe it to all those who suffered in silence and who are no longer with us to stand up for them and what I believe in.”
This article originally appeared on PTSD Jedi
Sam DeSilva has been blogging about PTSD since being caught in the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. More of his writing can be found here.
Photos courtesy of the author.