Monday 13 May 2013

So carers should be screened for depression, say doctors' leaders?

Why has it taken 'the powers that be' so long to come to this conclusion? As parents / carers of a young person with an eating disorder depression is no stranger, as many, many other parents will testify. But, I would like to ask, what good would it do?

Back in the summer of 2010 when I went to my GP with depression 12 months into my son Ben's eating disorder when he'd reached suicidal stage, all I got was a prescription for Fluoxetine and a referral for a maximum of 10 counselling sessions with a counsellor.

Almost daily Ben was threatening to kill himself and sometimes he would try - for example the time he climbed onto the roof. I had reached the stage where I was so stressed that I literally physically locked and could scarcely move. I couldn't work and I couldn't even drive safely. Some days I'd go to bed wishing I could go to sleep and never wake up.

The counselling sessions were useless.

It was like trying to plug the gash in the Titanic with a cotton bud.

All the counsellor did was hand me sheet after sheet of print-outs about anxiety and stress - the kind of stuff I could have easily found on the internet for myself.

The advice was obviously based on treating stress caused by situations like work or marital problems, things that - albeit it not easily in many circumstances - could be solved.

Quit the job or leave the partner.

But you can't leave your child when they're so very sick, can you?

You can't clock off at 5pm and go home and drown your sorrows in a glass of wine.

You can't take the day off sick or get a sick note from the GP.

I kept telling the counsellor that there was no solution - apart from my son getting well again. And, at that point, this looked like a heck of a long way off. That is, if he didn't kill himself before then.

Oh, and there was another problem.

I kept having to cancel our appointments because they were during the day when I was caring for Ben. Sometimes - well, much of the time - he'd kick off and it wasn't safe, or indeed possible, to leave him.

So in the end I had to cancel so many appointments it just wasn't worth going.

And in case you're visualising a cosy sofa-style chat in a pleasant, darkened room, think again.

These sessions were held in a GP's surgery on one of the worst council estates in the city. The inside of the surgery was as run-down, depressing and deprived looking as the concrete jungle outside. She sat one side of an old battered desk and I sat on the other, on uncomfortable upright chairs, the walls covered with posters warning of the dangers of smoking, drinking and STDs.

And then I'd leave with a pile of print-outs which I used as scrap paper.

The fluoxetine proved much more helpful.


  1. O come come Batty, I'm sure the walls also had nice pictures extolling the benefits of eating vegetables and taking more exercise as well, just to further increase your sense of disconnect!