Rosie describes herself as “a young voice trying to find a voice between the silence through blogging, using poetry to express my thoughts and running towards recovery. One day, hoping to become a public speaker to share my experiences and raise awareness about the impact of bullying and abuse in schools; highlighting the lasting effects of PTSD on the individual and the family.
‘You can be treated from PTSD if you have the intervention and the right treatment and the right support it can be sorted really quickly. But unfortunately I haven’t really had that initial support so it’s gone on for 10 years. My support has been cognitive behavioural therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy, EMDR, sort of the standard things the NHS should give you, but I’ve found that especially with CBT you can keep talking about the events that actually it can re-traumatise you all over again. Mental health staff do a great job, but they are not given the right resources or training to be able to help people with PTSD, so they label you with borderline personality disorder or schizophrenia when actually you have trauma, and that’s all it is but they’re not aware of how to treat it. If I can help one other person who is going through abuse now, or who has had it in the past … I just think it’s really important to share the stories’
What is the policy on mental health support for those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder caused by traumatic, stressful, frightening or distressing events including violence or sexual abuse, terror attacks, natural disasters, wartime conflict, accidents, traumatic births or miscarriages, and bereavements. There can be many different symptoms of PTSD; some include reliving the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, anxiety and emotional arousal, numbness, feelings of isolation, guilt, and even becoming suicidal.
Treatment for PTSD as stated on the NHS choices website can be: psychotherapy such as trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), or antidepressants like paroxetine or mirtazapine. Understanding the varying symptoms of PTSD is key to the effective treatment of it, and as Rosie outlines in her video sometimes symptoms of PTSD can be wrongly diagnosed as personality disorders, or schizophrenia.
Over the past few decades, rates of mental health issues amongst children and young adults have risen. As such, many young people are struggling to find help and support for mental health. In England, people with mental health problems fail to receive the same access and quality of care that people with other illnesses would receive. Rarely has mental health been seen as equal to physical health in the UK.
While the government works towards putting mental health on the agenda, funding towards mental health services seems to be decreasing. The Health and Social Care Act of 2012 created a new strategy for the NHS and other mental health services to increase their standard of delivery and provide early support for mental health problems. However mental health services have always been underfunded and cuts to the sector keep increasing, especially funding for children and young adults. The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) is one of the main services that offers mental health assessment and treatments for children and young people. However recent cuts to the CAMHS have made it difficult for children and young adults to seek the help they require. In addition, mental health services only consumes roughly 11% of the NHS budget, while mental health illnesses account for 23% of the burden of disease in the UK. Without adequate and sustainable funding, less people are able to get support they need.
Theresa May has however made a recent speech about mental health and young people in which she said “I want to see mental health addressed not just in our hospitals, but in our classrooms and communities…I want to see the stigma stripped away so that no-one in this country feels unable to talk about what they’re going through or seek help”. She also stated that there are to be trials to better connect schools to NHS mental health staff, schools are to be offered mental health first aid training, and there will be a review on how best to help employees with mental health problems in the workplace.
What is the issue with this approach?
There isn’t enough trauma-focused training for health care professionals, and trauma still isn’t fully understood. Every experience is individual; among each case of PTSD there is much variation and not enough is known about the condition. This makes it difficult to treat, meaning that things that work for some cases, might not work for others. Trauma is complicated and there just aren’t enough specialist places for treatment in the UK. Rosie found that after years of CBT, she had to stop it as it was re-traumatising to keep describing the traumatic event as it triggered her fight/flight response (common in PTSD), which led her into relapse. Rosie has found that running and yoga has helped along her path of recovery, and music has helped her express things that talking can’t.
Poor mental health is a serious problem and its severity is often undermined. Untreated mental health can turn into a lifelong illness; therefore, treating mental health problems and mental health education is vital from a young age. 10% of children and young people aged 5 to 16, have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem, yet 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age. In addition, 75% of mental illnesses in adult life begin before the age of 18. Cuts in mental health services are affecting children and young adults. It is vital for the government to improve efforts and funding for tackling mental health illnesses and provide support for those most vulnerable. The earlier that young people receive help to address their mental health issues, the less likely they are to suffer serious consequences in the future.
Institutions have failed to protect children and young people from abuse
Rosie was let down by a number of institutions, meaning that her case was not properly investigated. A Freedom of Information Act was requested but because the boarding school at which she suffered the abuse is a registered charity, they did not have to answer to the request, which points to a lack of transparency within the system.
The ongoing Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is gathering information from survivors of abuse to spot patterns of institutional failings to protect children from abuse. There are a number of institutions under investigation including schools, media organisations, charities, hospitals and the police.
There has however been controversy surrounding this inquiry for a number of reasons. Many survivors’ stories have been lost, a number of Chairs of the inquiry and the lead counsel have resigned, allegations of government interference have been made in the Scottish abuse inquiry, and a well-known survivors group has pulled out of the inquiry and says that the Home Office needs to “come clean about its own role in covering up historic child abuse”.
Since it was set up in 2014, the resignations, controversy about independence, and claims that its work could take decades have not given much hope to survivors, nor does it give much confidence that the truth will come out and change can be made.
The government must properly fund women’s services
Women’s services and organisations provide great efforts in supporting victims of violence. Many women rely on these services for their specialist trust and support. Funding cuts to this sector mean that often organisations are limited in the services they can provide and have to turn women that need help away. Women’s services not only support these women in a safe environment, they also do work on campaigning for victims of sexual violence, create awareness, and tackle the stigma surrounding survivors of sexual violence and rape. Their work is vital.
Rosie’s blog can be found here where she writes about her experiences https://rosieburnham.com
Rosie’s Twitter: @Rosie_Burnham