How my Father was Stolen from me by Michelle Torez

Visualize the most important person in your life standing before you, smiling.

Focus on that nice warm feeling deep down inside of you. Recall the happy memories you made together. Think about the things you still hope to do with them. Now picture a huge fire, a dark red and burnt orange flicker close to your face. You hear them screaming, but you can’t save them, you can’t reach them. Why? Because this fire is in the mind. It’s a slow-burning killer.

This fire can be put out if they get the right help in time. But, despite begging the mental health services for help, no help comes. You are promised call-backs that never happen. You are told to go to A&E, where you sit on a hard metal chair for anywhere between six and twelve hours, only to be told it’s not an emergency, given a leaflet, and sent home. If you had a broken arm and were turned away it would be headline news. Yet, the culture in the UK is that mental illness isn’t important. Everything you had ever hoped for that person is burning right before your very eyes. The so-called ‘professionals’ tell you to think positive thoughts, man up, and stop ringing. But you keep ringing, writing more emails, sending more letters, making more visits.

In the meantime, your loved one is suffering day in, day out. All you can do is watch helplessly as they get worse and worse. The things that you had hoped to do together seem increasingly unlikely. No coffee shops. No cinema trips. No shopping. The phone calls get less and less. Your loved one just simply exists, trapped in a house unable to do much for themselves. You spend the remaining days of their life looking after them, checking on them, making sure that they are still alive and not dead on the floor without anybody even knowing.

It’s heart-breaking, it’s traumatic, and it’s sucking the life right out of you. They tell you that they are sick of being in pain, sick of not getting any help and just want to die, kill themselves, finish it, or in their own words, ‘escape the darkness’. You break down in tears as all you can do is watch as your loved one grows older and older and the pain they are in gets worse and worse. Time is running out. You feel so angry towards the authorities that they have robbed you of your loved one.

The word ‘suicide’ lingers on the tip of your tongue, it torments your mind, haunts you in your sleep. When you ring to check on them, their phone is often switched off and you just wish that this isn’t the time that they’ve gone through with it. Gone forever. The coffin lowered, never coming back. You know full damn well that it didn’t have to be this way. Your loved one could have had a decent quality of life if there was mental health treatment available.

This is how I feel every day. My father is suicidal, he has severe depression, PTSD from childhood abuse and experiences in the UK Army, and is also physically disabled. He has attempted suicide twice, nearly dying both times, and has long term health problems as a result. Despite all of this, he gets no mental health support at all. Desperate suicidal people are told to ring the elusive ‘crisis team’ for support, but they are extremely difficult to get a hold of, and when people eventually do get through, they are simply told to make a cup of tea or go to A&E and wait for hours, only to be sent home again.

Apparently, even in-patients on mental health wards are being told by untrained staff to stop bothering them and ring the Samaritans. The Samaritans are a brilliant listening service, but they don’t give advice and they can’t give regular support or treatment for a specific issue. Suicidal people who ring 999 ‘too much’ can be charged with ‘being a nuisance’, ‘harassment’ ‘wasting police time’ or ‘malicious communications.’

This is the reality of mental health treatment in the UK. There is no mental health system. What’s happening in the UK is a deliberate cull by the Tory party. It’s been happening for years and it’s only getting worse.

My father has struggled with his mental health for most of his life. However, he told me that in the early 1980s he had a proper mental health team. Then, he was able to speak to a psychologist and when he felt like he was getting really unwell, could voluntarily admit himself to a mental health hospital for respite. Unfortunately, all of these services have gone now. Privatization, staff cuts, and hospitals and services have been shut down. ‘Care in the community’ was promised but never really materialised. The people who were the most desperate and in need of life-long support were put into bed and breakfasts or in flats on their own to rot. Suicide was inevitable, but this is the Tory way. Profit before people.

When I was a child, my father & I did do some things together like go to the cinema, go to the beach, and have meals out. But sadly, I don’t really remember many details as my memory has been affected by my own trauma. I grew up alone with my father as my mother suffers from serious schizophrenia and was in and out of mental health hospitals. I suffered from mental health problems myself and was detained in a secure unit as a child where I was sexually and physically abused. To have your own child locked up hundreds of miles away from home, subjected to abuse, not being able to save them, and not knowing if they are ever coming back home is one of a parent’s worst fears. My father tells me he’s eaten up by guilt and haunted daily by the memories of this.

Over the years my father’s health has deteriorated. Now he lives as a recluse, never leaving the house, ordering all of his food and things he needs online. He says he feels suicidal every day and that I’m the only reason he stays alive. It’s gut-wrenching to hear how much pain my father is in. He has warned me that one day he will tell me the date of his suicide, so I can prepare. I’m constantly on edge about this and can never relax. When I told my GP about this, she was sympathetic, but explained there was very little she could do. She’s rushed off her feet due to cutbacks, and told me she thinks it’s truly evil what’s going on in the UK, the lack of help and compassion from services.

Getting my dad regular help is my main motivation for staying alive. My GP suggested I try and get him some private help, so I fundraised to try and get my father into private specialist therapy. I successfully raised around £350 but that money ran out after a few months, so therapy stopped, and his mental health declined again.

I’ve had so many close friends kill themselves after being turned away by services. Everything I had ever hoped for or wanted has been destroyed by this evil regime. This is how it is in the UK, desperate people in need of serious help are just left to die or criminalized. This happened to me. I was convicted for ‘harassment of ringing the crisis line too often’ and ‘malicious communications’. As I have a criminal record, it is hard for me to get employment, even voluntary work.

It’s a cycle of pain. Person A never gets any help, and kills themselves, which affects Person B (their children/close friend), which affects Person C, D, E, F and their close friends and family. A human life isn’t a singular thing. It affects so many other lives.

I’ve gotten used to the fact that I may lose my loving father to a system that ruined both of our lives. I’ve prepared for his death by distancing myself from him psychologically and focusing on other people for my main emotional support. It’s horrible and sad, but it’s the way it is here in the UK.

At the end of the day, it’s my father’s choice whether he ends his life or not and I wouldn’t love him any less if he did. I would understand. He has been my best friend, my teacher, my guiding force. I will always love him with every bit of my heart and soul forever. No matter what happens, I will continue to fight for better mental health services for the rest of my life so that other people don’t have to grow up without parents like I had to.

Artwork by Nash Adrien (Twitter: @dssapear) & concept by Jessica Oakwood (Twitter: @lifeinunreality


Michelle Torez is currently writing a book about her experiences of abuse in a UK mental hospital. See