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How NHS Mental Health Services Destroyed My Life


www.michelletorez.com

Twitter: @mtorezwriting

 

NB: this article talks about previous sexual abuse, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

Between 1994 and 2006 I was brought up by my lone father, an extremely gentle, educated man with a passion for learning and three degrees. Sadly, my mother has never been a part of my life and I’ve only ever met her once, about fifteen years ago, accompanied with my father as a visitor to the mental hospital she was living in. She suffers from serious schizophrenia.

At secondary school I was heavily bullied, had few friends and felt constantly misunderstood. I’ve always enjoyed my own company rather than playing in groups and used to prefer reading in the school library rather than playing football or chatting in the playground. At twelve years old I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, a mild form of Autism. A few months later, in the same year of 2006, I was arrested for an offence of having a knife in a public place and put into secure mental health services called ‘Roycroft Clinic’ in Newcastle upon Tyne where the onslaught of awful abuse started.

Many staff members got sacked and the articles about this are still available to read online to this day if you type ‘RoycroftAbuse Scandal’ into Google. I was subjected to sexual abuse, physical abuse and sheer cruelty on a daily basis. I witnessed staff sexually abuse patients right in front of my eyes, hot water being thrown at a fourteen year old girl, people being starved and people being told to ‘just speed it up and kill yourself’. All around me was a feeling of hopelessness, a stomach churning feeling of desperation. I was never safe. Most days I saw people get attacked and people hurt themselves. Most days I heard screaming of unwell children until the early hours of the morning. Too often I saw blood, urine and the tears of unwell children being abused. No smartphones, laptops or modern technology was allowed. Forget going down to the fiery pits of hell with the devil, that place was hell, and I had to live there for five, long, painful years. They denied me of any education as well, even though I was eager to get one. At twelve years old most children are out playing with friends or, these days, on their games consoles. Me? I was locked up in a tiny cell like bedroom dreading the next time I was going to be sexually abused or assaulted. That stuff never leaves you.

After I left Roycroft Clinic in Newcastle I was sent all around the country like a parcel for a further three years; residing in mental health units in Norwich, York, Market Weighton and Beverley until 201; the year that I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, the year that I was finally taken off my mental health section and the year that I was allowed to return to my hometown of Hull. Sadly, back in my hometown I quickly realized that I was alone and that the so called ‘care and support package’ I was promised to follow me from the institutions into society didn’t actually exist, and only ever existed on paper in meetings to impress the right business people. I needed to grow up and learn how to live in the lonely, dangerous world quickly before I got devoured. My father couldn’t be there all the time because of his own mental health. The reality was that I was on my own. I couldn’t cope. I struggled so much with adjusting to freedom; the ability to do what I want, eat what I want, wear what I want. I struggled with the fact that I was no longer being abused. I struggled with bills and all of the stress of living on your own. I struggled with the fact that I was now technically an adult, and for the first time in my life, had a hell of a lot of adult responsibility on my shoulders. Deep down inside I still felt like a scared little girl.

Fast forward to 2016, a particularly bad year for me. My friend took her own life. On top of this, I was living on my own in a tiny flat next to people who used to leave heroin needles in the street, I couldn't get any form of employment or even any help to do this no matter where I turned and I was so lonely. During this time I often felt suicidal and under the instruction of my GP and other people, used to ring the crisis team hoping to get some support. Sadly, half the time I couldn't get through and was simply placed on hold for stupidly long periods of time, ranging from ten minutes to two hours, and on the occasions that I actually could get through, I got through to a tied, fed up sounding person who casually told me to make a cup of tea. I went on to cut my arm and wrist so deeply that they needed multiple stitches and I'm now left with permanent scarring for the rest of my life. I took multiple drug overdoses, one resulting in a four day hospital admission on the resus ward. I ended up going to prison for contacting them, dragged to court, and then given various criminal convictions and put on a 'criminal behaviour order' for ringing them when I wasn't in 'genuine enough' need. I guess narrowly missing my artery with a carpet cuter wasn’t serious enough. It seemed as though the Humberside police, CPS and Hull mental health services wanted me to die or got pleasure from watching me suffer. The authorities printed my photo, name, age and street address in various newspapers saying that I’d ‘wasted’ vital services time, which made me feel even more alone. The online articles are still available to read to this day. This is the reason I changed my name to what it is today. After this, I couldn't stay in Hull much longer and I no longer viewed the place as my hometown. I wrote various complaints but never got any responses.

In September 2017 I moved to Bradford for a fresh start, but within three weeks got sexually assaulted by a flatmate. In December 2017 I got offered a council house in Leeds due to all of these circumstances. I took it up and decided to move away for good. Within a few weeks of moving to Leeds my father became extremely ill and then another friend of mine took their own life. Just one traumatic thing after the other. Sadly, just as before, I was punished by the mental health services for asking for help. Due to contacting the Leeds Crisis Team, in January I got arrested and in April 12th was sent to court and charged because the member of staff was claiming that I wasn’t ringing for a ‘genuine reason’ yet again. Yet another criminal conviction just for wanting help that will stay on my record for life, hindering my chances of ever getting employment.

Although I am not locked up, I still don’t feel free and doubt I ever will. Horrific things are still constantly happening to me, I keep losing people to suicide because there is no mental health support anymore and if you ask for help your either get blatantly ignored or arrested. I have very few friends due to being sent around the country like a parcel. I have a suicidal father that I have to try and keep alive myself because he gets no mental health support. Everything I ever wanted has been taken away from me by the very authorities that were supposed to help me and support me. The job centre say they can’t help me, or any of the so called ‘specialist’ charities for people with convictions. They say my needs are too complex. I can’t get work at all because everything I’m interested in has been shut off from me for the rest of my life due to my criminal record and this hurts more than I can put into words, its numbing. I am so passionate, driven and desperate to help other people but according to the UK rules will never be allowed in my lifetime. Originally I wanted to work as a Lawyer helping people get off mental health sections but was advised I wouldn’t be allowed, so turned to studying English to teach, but then the teaching society told me I’d never be able to do that either, so I then looked at becoming a support worker, homeless outreach worker or probation officer but was told I couldn’t do any of those roles either because I’m barred. The sad thing is 95 % of jobs in the UK require a standard or enhanced DBS check and I won’t get past them. Every advert on TV, radio or on the internet talking about hiring people I switch off or get upset by. It just reminds me of ‘what could have been’. It just reminds me that I won’t be able to do the job, no matter what Degrees or qualifications I get. Plus, I got rejected from four mainstream universities due to my criminal record. I’m barred from teaching, law, caring, banking, finance, security, any of the emergency services, RSPCA, RSPCCand anything working in hospitals, the medical sector, childrenor vulnerable adults. Which leaves very, very little. I often think what is the actual point in living knowing that I can never do what I want to do. Every time I see a nice car or an expensive looking apartment I get upset, because those things seem forever out of my grasp due to my circumstances. It seems like no matter how hard I try I will never get anything now.

Also, since I have very little money I cannot go anywhere or pursue any hobbies which means I can’t meet people, so I’m very isolated still and will be until something changes. I spend my days as a recluse. I just exist. I live off Asda smart price food, I rarely can afford new clothes so a lot of my clothes are too small for me, I can never afford to buy any treats or nice things for myself and often have to sell things just to get by. Recently I sold my laptop so that I could buy food. Is this how my life is going to be for the rest of my life? Selling my belongings to be able to just exist. Being truthful, it was much nicer in prison. At least in there I got regular hot meals, exercise, a routine, a job, and didn’t need to sell things just to be able to raise enough money to put the heating on. I have certainly thought about selling my body as a job to be able to have a regular income. I think its abysmal it has come to this. I am simply a recluse. Hardly anybody rings me or texts me and it’s often weeks and weeks before I get to hug somebody or even go for a coffee with someone. Also, finding a partner is difficult because I’m gay and have chronic health conditions. When people tell me that ‘I’m so young’ and that ‘I have the rest of my life ahead of me’ it makes me feel sick to the stomach. Great. I have another sixty or so years to watch my hopes and dreams slip through my fingers, burn in the flames before my very eyes. To this day professionals that I’ve spoken to still don’t understand why I was locked up for so long. I spent a total of eight years locked up being subjected to abuse- the equivalent of a 15/16 year prison sentence. Rapists and attempted murderers do less. I will never get those years of my life back.

This is how the NHS has destroyed my life, I’ve had an awful life and what I have been through will affect the rest of my living days, I still have vivid nightmares about the abuse I was subjected to. I never got any apologies or any answers and know full damn well that I never will. If I ever get fully suicidal again I won’t ask for help because I know I will be punished. However, despite all of this I have kept going. Since I can’t get a job I make it my job to help others and inspire people. I hope this article has inspired you and has helped you to understand that no matter what you have been through, there is always the option to live and have hope. Thank you for reading. 

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