Today was a good day. Someone had my back.
Twenty minutes into a session I realized that some details sounded familiar. I paused and looked at the young man in the room. He smiled and said warmly,
“I called you two months ago on a dark day”.
I re-ran the call in my mind a little; his story had overflowed into the phone; his confusion and sadness palpable. I had answered his call just five minutes before my next client appointment and felt out of time but I had done my best. I told him things would get better and that there would be a way through and then I gave him a number. I told him that if they didn’t answer or couldn’t help him today he needed to call me back and I would find someone for him. I told him I trusted him to do that.
I knew I had to hand it on; the ‘it’ he was dealing with: the confusion and fear. Because I am not a super human. I have limits. But my heart sank as I did because the truth is our mental health system is in severe trouble. And people in real need get answering machines or get told the next appointment available is in 3 weeks. Real people. Sitting in the corner of their room clutching the phone and struggling to breathe.
So I said a little prayer. I prayed that the people at the end of that number would step in; that they would do their job and do it well. I prayed that they would have my back.
And my prayer was answered.
They answered the phone. They made it a priority to see him. And within a few hours he was sitting in front of someone who steadied the ground beneath his feet, normalized his fear and helped him plan his next move.
So here he was some weeks later, in my room, with his wife; seeking the speciality I offer (relationship counselling). They had some work to do to pull things together but they were already half way there.
I’m not sure how it has become acceptable for Doctors to refer a patient for counselling – and 2 months later they are still waiting for it to be processed. I don’t know how these delays have become accepted as the norm with seemingly little fight to change it.
We don’t need 100 Goodsorts going above and beyond and burning themselves out to patch up the few people they can reach. We need a few thousand professionals (and more); Trained, confident, equipped and paid with decent professional supervision. We need to get face to face with the people who need it within hours not months.
Today was a good day. Someone had my back. That’s what we mental health professionals need.