I'm tired of people telling me to go and get therapy - it's not that simple
I’m tired of people telling me to get therapy. There, I said it.
This might sound odd. Surely, people are trying to help, right? They’re trying to be thoughtful. They’re noticing that something’s up and that you need support (as long as it isn’t said in a spiteful way, of course). But it’s not that simple. Because therapy isn’t accessible to everyone.
Unfortunately, especially during the time of Covid-19, therapy is harder than ever to get. I’ve been on a waiting list for psychiatric help, after transitioning from my perinatal mental health team, for months now. And still, nothing, despite being considered an ‘urgent’ case. And I’m not alone.
There are thousands of people waiting for therapeutic help right now. But they cannot access it, often because, like me, they cannot afford it. Instead, we find our way onto a waiting list that can seem never-ending (or quite literally, is never-ending), or we turn to the likes of Samaritans for anonymous help over the phone.
This might seem like I’m putting a downer on people who are trying to help, but I promise you I’m not — I’m just trying to shed a different light on it.
Private therapy is often a matter of class. And telling people to go and get private therapy, when they are struggling and looking for help, can be classist.
Not everyone has access to private therapy, because not everyone can afford to pay for it, without being late on their rent (or having to use up their overdraft in hopes of getting the right help). For instance, I used my own overdraft to pay for some private cognitive behavioural therapy when I was at risk of being hospitalised in a mother and baby unit. Despite using my overdraft and having to cancel just a few sessions due to no longer being able to pay for it, this was a privilege. And I accept that.
But in some ways it wasn’t a privilege — it added great stress onto my family, because the £70-per-hour sessions that I needed every week added up, and having a new baby meant finances were tighter than ever, and so this stress only added on to the mental health issues I was already experiencing (which, for reference, was maternal obsessive-compulsive disorder).
There is a lot of evidence that says that there is a strong socioeconomic gradient in mental health, with people of lower socioeconomic status having a ‘higher likelihood of developing and experiencing mental health problems’, according to the Mental Health Foundation.
Studies show that children and adults living in households in the lowest 20% income bracket in Great Britain are two to three times more likely to develop mental health problems than those in the highest.
Employment status is also linked to mental health outcomes, with the WHO citing that those who are unemployed or economically inactive have higher rates of common mental health problems than those who are employed.
And people can be unemployed for a number of reasons (FYI, they’re not lazy). There are people who are chronically unwell, physically, and mentally, who cannot work. People who are unwell who, despite being unwell, cannot even get government support. So, you tell me how they are supposed to pay for therapy, instead of joining the thousands on the NHS waiting lists?
I’ve seen many people from a higher class talking about therapy, which is great. But then they recommend it to people from a lower class (like myself), like we don’t know that therapy is a thing. We do. It’s just not accessible to us.
We need to recognise that mental illness is a class issue. I’m not saying people who are wealthier don’t have mental health issues — what I am saying is that they have more privilege. They have the means to get private therapy and help sooner, while the rest of us rely on GPs telling us the waiting lists are too long, midnight phone calls to the Samaritans (been there multiple times), turning up at A&E because you don’t know where else to turn when you’re in crisis, and suffering in silence.
And so, yes, I’m tired of people telling me — telling us — to go and get therapy. It’s not simple. It’s not easy. It’s complex and inaccessible and soul-destroying when you desperately need help when you can’t get it.
I’m happy for anyone who can get frequent private therapy, who experiences the benefits, who doesn’t have to go to their GP and repeatedly ask for support.
But what I’m saying is, please don’t make out like this is something that everyone can do, because it is hurtful and invalidating.
Support others, of course. But try to do it mindfully, and appreciate that not everybody is as lucky as you.