Opinion

How I was sectioned – and why as a Senedd candidate I’m calling for a Mental Health Minister

21 Mar 2021 5 minutes Read
Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd Candidate for Aberconwy

Rhys Jones, Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd Candidate for Aberconwy 

I recently read that nearly five people every day were sectioned across Wales during 2020. This really had an effect on me.

I decided to stand for election because of my experience not only in the business world but because I am one of those who have been detained by the police under section 136 of the 1983 mental health act.

The night I lost all rights and became an individual protected by the state for my own safety and society, will remain with me for my entire life. Police collected me after my family contacted them and I was driven to the nearest hospital, and was held there for my own protection.

I was in my late twenties at the time and had never expected to reach that point of crisis. I don’t think anyone thinks they will even be in that situation.

The six police officers that evening were angels, and deserve every commendation for the actions they carry out as part of their duties. I wish my mental ill-health had not got to the point where I needed the state to intervene, but I can’t change the past. All I can do is fight for change in the present so that other people do not have to reach that point.

Following that night, I was held for 24 hours and released back to the world. My mood, on release, was so low but I knew I had to go and deal with my problems. I sought out medical support immediately and saw a psychiatrist as soon as it was possible.

Sadly, I was advised that it would be better to use private health care providers over the NHS because of the strain that mental health services are under. I was prescribed Prozac and have not looked back since. I can only now look back and want to make someone else’s mental health journey completely different.

Implications

My psychiatrist will most likely tell you that I have low-level constant depression added to by life event stress. At the time of my crisis, I had issues with my landlord and typical everyday work stress.

These stresses together lead to a slow silent deterioration in my mental health. I wish I had been taught in school what depression actually was. I wish that there were people in my life, at my place of work, public transport workers, community members that were aware of the signs and could have pushed me to go and speak with someone about my feelings.

I think that if I’d have had community-level awareness of the progression of my depression I would not have reached that crisis. That’s what I want for the next generation in Wales.

Mental Health First Aiders are superstars and I wish we could see more of this in every section of society. Kirsty Williams has revolutionised the Welsh curriculum and now mental health is a focus. I cannot say thank you enough for the work Kirsty has done here as it is amazing.

A dedicated mental health minister for Wales that’s not just focused on the NHS is also needed. This minister should be an effective member of government that can influence all portfolios as mental health deterioration does come from all parts of life. The minister should be focusing the Welsh Government on the implications of its decisions on the mental well-being of the nation.

Stigma

However grateful I am now of the sectioning I went through, and I understand the requirement in law to protect all of society, I wish sections were a thing of the past. I want to make it so that we as society have no stigma about depression, mental health nor sectioning.

Mental health is an issue we should all as a community worry about, and your government should be going above and beyond to make sure crisis and suicide are thought about in every single decision they make.

The one piece of advice I wish I had heard was: “Talking to anyone, be it a medical professional or anyone, does help.”

Had I talked sooner about my feelings I’m sure I would have gone to a doctor earlier than I did. To those of you reading this, that will have someone talk about their feelings please lend them your ear. My depression was a hidden one and no-one would have guessed I was at the point I was. It is a silent killer we need to fight against.

The stigma attached to talking about mental health is rife throughout the country. I have no shame in talking about my sectioning and depression one bit. It was hard to go back to work and see how many individuals saw me slightly different.

I carry my mental health as a badge of honour these days, not just for myself but for the thousands of people out there suffering.

What the numbers do not show is those people not at the point of crisis. If you are one of them please talk with anyone it can make a world of difference.

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