She asked for help and we didn't hear

I recently came across an article in the Guardian that reinstated something I already know needs changing. It detailed two events that took place within the space of four months, whereby two mentally ill men committed murder. Both of these men were let down by our health system to such an extent that it ended three lives- a dramatic lesson that I assume hasn't been learnt. The sister of one of the two men repeatedly asked for help and was ignored. Amazingly, a director of nursing at the mental health NHS trust responsible for his case, said: "She asked for help and we didn't hear". Possibly the most pathetic response I've ever heard.

I recently wrote a blog post on a similar article, whereby three sets of parents talked about how their respective sons had been executed for murder, despite being severely mentally ill. Of course, people with physical illnesses don't always receive the treatment they're entitled to- which is obvious by how much the NHS pays in compensation every year. The fact is, though, that in the cases outlined in the Guardian article, it's blatantly obvious that pleas were heard, and just disregarded. In both cases, it's obvious that worried family members were ignored, care plans were not put in place and, I may be jumping to conclusions, but it further convinces me that when it comes to the perception of mental health, we really aren't there yet.

For anyone suffering with an illness that leads to threats of suicide and homicide, as it did for one of the two men, it is completely beyond me why health services let this happen. And that's exactly what they did - let it happen. If someone complains of physical symptoms, they will receive help. Yet expressing the worry of someone who is mentally ill and a danger to others quite obviously got ignored - and the problem lies with the fact that it puts other people at risk, too. I know that mental illness is taken with a pinch of salt by many health professionals - and I'm allowed to say that without being general, I've seen it firsthand.

Until physical and mental illnesses are given equal prominence, there'll continue to be not only unnecessary suffering, but unnecessary deaths. We may not live in a right wing American state, but mental illness is quite obviously leading to preventable deaths here in the UK, too.  The general consensus may be that an eye for an eye  is a waste of time, but we need to keep a better eye on those who are seen as a waste of time.


  1. Very true.

    The trouble is that mental illness isnt taken seriously by lots of people, particularly men, and often considered something 'soft'. Something to be ridiculed rather than talked about and treated. It also seems to bring in connotations of weakness. This also compunds problems for people admitting something is wrong. Break your leg and people will sympathise. Catch some ilness and people will sympathise. But the response to mental ilness is poor.

    We do indeed have a long way to go.

  2. It is indeed. Something I hope will continue to improve over the next few years!