‘Please, please, please Mr Cameron can you do something to help?’ An open letter to the Prime Minister to save our mental health helpline

Heather Edmondson from Litcham, who is a service user of a mental health helpline which is not getti

Heather Edmondson from Litcham, who is a service user of a mental health helpline which is not getting its funding renewed. Picture: Matthew Usher.

As our campaign to save the mental health crisis support line run by the Norwich and Central Norfolk branch of Mind nears 7,000 followers, a user of the service pens an emotional letter to Prime Minister David Cameron.

Prime Minister David Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron - Credit: PA

Dear Mr Cameron,

You don't know me but I suffer with various mental health conditions. I'm one of the many who rely on a phone support service that is provided by the Norwich and Central Norfolk branch of Mind. It's a lifesaver, I should know, it has certainly saved my life.

But now, in their wisdom, the people in charge of health services in Norfolk don't want to continue funding it. I'm writing to you, desperately hoping you can step in and solve the problem. You have, after all, spoken time and time again about how important mental health is as an issue for you to crack.

The line opened 12 months ago and I cannot begin to tell you how much having the line means to me and other service users. But let me try.

Mind support line. Ben Marshall, team leader. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mind support line. Ben Marshall, team leader. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016


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I was diagnosed with depression about 14 years ago, I have been in the Fermoy Unit at Kings Lynn five times and in Hellesdon Hospital once. Each time I was given more and more medication and passed back to my GP with little or no further treatment or help.

I am lucky enough to have a wonderful GP practice at Litcham Health Centre where nothing is too much trouble. I am seen on a regular weekly basis by my GP, Dr Julian Brown.

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A few years ago, after a failed suicide attempt, I was referred to the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust for treatment. Whenever I had a problem out of hours I was instructed to ring the local crisis team.

Quite often the phone would go onto answer and no one returned your call, the service was very hit and miss. Imagine being at your lowest ebb, all sorts of things going through your mind, but the service you've been told to use is not available. You feel so alone.

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But I wasn't alone in one regard – many more were going through the same thing. No wonder the mental health service is in special measures. It simply couldn't cope.

To try and help people like me, a pilot scheme was set up whereby in a crisis we called the Norwich Mind helpline. They are a highly trained team who initially provided a 24/7 service. They could often diffuse a difficult situation and help you make sense of a problem. They also triaged for the crisis teams and referred you if necessary. I was amber alerted five times and red alerted once.

Imagine what might have happened if that service had not been available to help me?

When the pilot scheme was about to come to an end the Clinical Commissioning Groups decided to stop funding the line and there was much uproar from service users that the line was refunded. The trust stepped in for six months but as of March 31 we are back to square one. A service which saves lives, is used by hundreds of people and has nothing to rival it, is to be scrapped because neither of those organisations will pick up the tab.

Yet we're talking just £10,000 a month. Is that too much to potentially save not one, but many lives?

As you would expect, there has been much uproar and this time there is a petition to save the line which in a week has had 6000 signatures, the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News are supporting us as are local MPs and service users.

Personally, all of this has made me feel very low again. The Mind line has been my saviour on more than one occasion. They are a highly trained team who understand the needs of mental health sufferers, I can't bear to even think of them not being refunded. The Samaritans do a good job but are only a listening service.

We don't have anything else in place that comes close to it, there is no other service to take over. The NSFT already have the highest suicide rate in the country and mark my words it will get higher if this line is closed and the staff disbanded. The £10,000 a month cost is a drop in the ocean in the grand scheme of things.

I've seen and read your words about mental health and how you want to improve things. You say nobody should feel alone. I desperately want to believe you, but when decisions like this are being take I don't see how I can.

Please, please, please Mr Cameron can you do something to help?

Heather Edmondson

Litcham Norfolk.

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