David Cameron wants to stop benefits for obese, mentally ill and addicts who “refuse” treatment. (The mental health bit was brought up last year.)
The BBC wanted to hear from people who may be affected by this so I sent them my story.
15 years ago, whilst at medical school, I was diagnosed with depression. This was later amended to bipolar disorder in 2001 and then borderline personality disorder (BPD) in 2011. It can and would be considered treatable by the DWP but this only works if treatment is available on the NHS. I live in Edinburgh and treatment specific to BPD, dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), is only available to four specific groups.
1. BPD, homeless and substance abuse problem.
2. BPD and an eating disorder.
3. BPD and a history of trauma.
4. BPD, female and at risk of reoffending.
The only way for me to get treatment is to make myself homeless and develop a drug problem or lie about eating habits or trauma or commit a crime.
I’m so desperate for treatment that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what crime I could commit that wouldn’t be too bad. Nobody should be in this situation but I am. I spend more than half my waking hours feeling suicidal. I don’t know how much longer I can carry on. I’m luckier than most. I know several other people with BPD who are in a much worse place. I at least have a really good support network.
I’m terrified the DWP will accuse me of refusing treatment because I don’t take psychiatric medication. I don’t take it because the benefit is negligible and the cost in terms of side effects is too great. The antipsychotics increase my appetite and the last time I was on them I ended up obese but still unable to work, due to mental illness not obesity but the weight certainly didn’t help. I’m not refusing treatment because I want to stay on benefits. Besides, treatment should work. I’ve been every single class of psychiatric medication bar one which I can’t safely take. None of them do anything and the other side effects are horrific. The DWP could easily accuse me of refusing treatment and stop my benefits. I’d be completely screwed then. I would end my life if that happened.
I’m part of a collective advocacy group who are campaigning to get more BPD-specific treatments available in NHS Lothian but it’s taking forever. I attend strategic planning meetings when I’m well enough but they cost a lot in terms of mental stress.
Punitive measures like these are counterproductive unless the outcome is then death of the claimant so you no longer have to support them. If that’s the intended outcome then it’s perfect.
Part of me wants to take my own life now because the stress of knowing this is coming is unbearable. I can’t carry on living like this.