(Trigger warning – discussion of self-harm and suicide)
The junior doctors’ strike frightens me. I’m frightened I’ll be in A&E at 3 in the morning (again), needing to be stitched up or un-poisoned or put back together some other way, and there won’t be anyone there to do it. Just because doctors working in A&E aren’t striking, doesn’t mean the strike doesn’t affect A&E – when hospitals are short-staffed anywhere, the tailbacks stretch to the emergency department. I’m scared that if I end up there on one of the strike days, it will be so chaotic and crowded that I’ll run away again when I need help. It’s happened before.
But I still support the strike, because that fear is nothing compared to the fear I have of the slow destruction of the NHS. It’s let me down at times, but it’s kept me alive. Out of hours care is a long way from perfect, but staffing it with knackered doctors will only make it worse. For every time I’ve been judged or told off for self-harming or attempting suicide in the two years since my first major breakdown, I can think of at least two occasions when a junior doctor treated me with compassion and respect. And I think the bad experiences which put me at risk will increase in direct proportion to how worn out the staff are. I don’t want to be treated by a doctor who’s working a 70-hour week. I don’t think that’s safe, and I think Jeremy Hunt and the Tory cabinet don’t care; after all, if they develop a health problem which means they end up in hospital twice a month, they can afford to pay for private treatment.
I support the junior doctors. It’s the least I can do, given all the times they’ve supported me.