Andrea's story

We need a system that is preventative, one that works with people to support them as and when bad things happen.
— Andrea's submission

I have experienced extreme states of being. These have encompassed many feelings both enjoyable and not enjoyable. I have used mental health services. I have benefitted and suffered as a direct result of mental health services.

The people I have worked with in mental health services have invariably been amazing. I got on with some of them better than others, but they were all fantastic, thoughtful and caring people.

The services I received were based in our legislation that says that the never proven theory, that mental health crises and conditions have a genetic or biological cause, is one hundred percent correct. Our legal system demands that our services enforce this myth. The good people who work in our services are hamstrung by the legal constructs that successive governments have supported, and my community suffers as a result.

We don’t know what causes extreme states, so the psychiatric drugs that our system mandates are not chemical cures. As a class of drugs they dampen and deaden people. I spent years in that state, and I try really hard to not see them as wasted years, but rather as an experience I can use to help bring about change.

These drugs have so many negative side effects, including killing my community up to twenty five years earlier than the general population, that all the recent research and recommendations say that they should only ever be used for a short term to manage a crisis. If they have been prescribed for any length of time these drugs can be next to impossible to stop taking. I have experienced excruciating withdrawal effects for years as a result of withdrawing from taking neuroleptics, those drugs that are marketed as the ‘antidotes’ to psychosis. There are many people taking prescribed psychiatric drugs every day knowing full well that they are damaging themselves. There are many more people who have not been fully informed about the drugs they have been prescribed and are taking.

The education of the people in the four groups who can prescribe these drugs is a serious issue, but the system we have gives our prescribers very few alternatives to work with, and there are so many alternatives that could be offered. It doesn’t make me happy that the drugs I have been prescribed have probably knocked decades off my life. I hate to think how the people who wrote and signed those prescriptions feel.

The way our system works, with draconian legislated power based on an untruth, is one of the most unequal constructs in our society. It tells everyone in the country that I have a broken brain, that I can be treated as less than human, and that if I protest it is because I have a broken brain and so my protest can be ignored.

There is no logic, fact or evidence to support our current mental health system. What we do know is that the things around a person, what happens to them, can lead to extreme states. These can include interactions with family members, traumatic natural events and personal losses.

We need a system that is preventative, one that works with people to support them as and when bad things happen. And we need multiple ways a person can be supported so that people can choose the options that work for them. When we have this we will be growing the wellbeing of everyone in our communities, and giving everyone the opportunity to make the choices they need to make in order to live their best lives.