@Chlowinfield1’s #MadCovidDiaries 15.1.2021
TW: Suicide and Self-harm
Last week my therapist emailed me to say she would no longer be seeing me face to face due to the new Covid strain/lock-down and me not being able to wear a mask (I have an exemption and can wear it for short periods e.g. on the bus but can’t for an entire hour). There was no acknowledgement that this would be distressing to me, nor indication as to how long it would be for.
The previous lock-down was horrific without face-to-face support, I won’t go into details, but it’s not an experience I would ever want to repeat. Last week I immediately went into crisis and came very close to attempting to take my life several times over the next few days.
In a phone call, my therapist explained the decision to stop seeing me again was a matter of policy. I wanted to know how long it would be for – e.g. would we be able to restart sessions once she was vaccinated? – but she couldn’t say because she “doesn’t make the policies”. I asked who might be able to tell me and the only name she could give was the Chief Executive (in a trust with over 5000 staff!?).
There are several things which made this situation worse than it might have been:
1. I have absolutely no faith that the service will amend their policy in a reasonable time frame, or even based on something scientific like staff being vaccinated. An MP repeatedly wrote on my behalf in the last lock-down and some of the replies were so nonsensical you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d sent it to the wrong person! Therapy finally returned at the end of September, six months after it stopped, two and a half months after hairdressers and pubs, and just when rates were beginning to increase again. So, no, I don’t trust a decision will be made based on an accurate assessment of risk or my best interests.
2. The lack of care with which it was gone about. I’ve been in the service over 3 years and known the therapist most of that time. My CPN said only a few weeks ago they wouldn’t stop seeing me again because it was clear from before the risks were too high. It’s well known that I cope better when I have reasons explained to me and know how long something will last. Yet somehow the therapist reached this decision without consulting me or my care coordinators and didn’t attempt to provide any information about how long it would be for.
Lots of phoning around revealed there was no actual change in policy. A manager in the therapy service emailed everyone to say they should ‘review’ who they were seeing face-to-face. It seems a discussion between my therapist and her supervisor led to them deciding not to see me because of the mask exemption. (The manager has said he never intended to ban mask exemptions, the situation should be reassessed bearing in mind the risks to me from not being seen, and there’s no reason why I can’t go back once the therapist is vaccinated).
In the 8 days it’s taken to establish this, I’ve come close to attempting suicide many times. I’ve had several long phone calls with duty staff and several emergency GP calls. My mum, who is a doctor on a Covid ward in the same NHS trust, has had to miss multiple days of work to supervise me at home.
What I find most infuriating about this situation is that it was entirely preventable. Had someone thought to consult me or my care coordinators, they would have known a decision like this would send me into crisis. If they had involved me in a discussion about the risk from face-to-face sessions and reassured me any interruption would be until the therapist was vaccinated, I would have reluctantly agreed to be seen remotely, knowing it was only temporary.
More openness, and involving service users in discussions about their care and the weighing of risks would not only be good practice, but prevent the additional burden on resources that comes from making service users feel hopeless.
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