Now, most of us will be treated inside our state health system – with extra insurance cover if you're lucky. That state health care depends on a huge bureaucracy supported by taxes and delivered by individuals with a range of abilities and flaws. In the past year I have seen 10 different consultants – including cardiologists, neurologists, epileptologists and neurosurgeons – and as of writing am nowhere near discovering a concrete, definite, unambiguous, iron-clad diagnosis. Not all the doctors were 'bad' as such, but then again, not all of them were all that good. Some seemed to care more than others, some actually took the time to listen and discuss options, some just seemed to enjoy a snap decision as if it was a sign of virtuosity. Many specialists will work for both a state and a private hospital, so that handing over money is still no guarantee of a premium service. However, if you find your specialist unsympathetic; or if the side-effects of your medication are serious; or if a particular line of enquiry is being blocked to you; or if, for whatever reason you feel you really need another opinion, then having that extra money puts power back into your hands.
I know from my own experience that symptoms do not always yield a clear-cut diagnosis. Many neurocardiological conditions can be subtle and complex. The starting points are always those that are statistically the most likely. If you happen to have a fairly rare condition it could well take years to diagnose it. But during that time you could also end up taking medications you don't really need. A misdiagnosis can have very serious consequences. You may be subjected to damaging side-effects that you didn't need to experience; you may end up with social or legal problems due to a condition you don't really have; you may even have restrictions placed on you at work with potential loss of status or income. In short, a misdiagnosis can ruin your life!
This is where a 2nd, or 3rd, or even 4th opinion is worth the money spent... assuming you have it. I understand that any disorder can be doubly crippling in terms of losing both one's quality of life and one's earning potential. I read on many forums about people trying, often desperately, to get back to work. Rarely is it possible to return to one's profession full-time. Often people start looking far and wide, even mundane part-time jobs can feel worthwhile, just to get some human contact and some extra cash. You're not alone – this is a problem that afflicts every country in the world. At a conservative estimate the annual global productivity lost to mental health problems comes in at over $4 trillion! Worse than this is the added fact that the majority of sufferers are not even classified as unemployed – as that assumes the possibility of future employment – but rather as “unable to work”. This seems to draw a line under our careers, a life left to dwindle away under the care and control of others. The internet is a liberating experience in terms social contacts with people across the globe who suffer just like you. Now it is also time to harness that community to bring financial benefits to us all: financial benefits that we need to feel empowered.
I will discuss how you can all create an income stream from the internet. As you are reading this I assume you have internet access. That is all that you need. You do not need to pay a penny to set up your own money-making website. You just need to know how. As we build up this website we will explain everything you need, without even charging anything. All it needs is for the mental health community to realize that it has financial strength and power. The financial strength of a community as a whole will help you build your own financial security and to regain some control over your medical condition.
You will be able to get that 4th opinion if you need it. You will be able to get extra assistance with those side-effects. You will be able to get any psychological support you need rather than feeling isolated. You will be able to insist that a full set of tests be done – or even redone – just to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that your treatment is optimal.
I am not here to promote the private sector, but if you are becoming frustrated with your current health care it is good to have that option. You may well even be happy with your treatment but wish to investigate alternative therapies to ease some of the side-effects. But taking a global view, there are countries where the national health system is fairly basic; where the costs of going private are very low compared to the first world but are still often prohibitive for a person earning local wages in a developing country. For example, a mere $100 will not get you very much in the UK or USA but is more than enough to get an appointment with a specialist in Thailand, including travel and any medications. I will talk elsewhere about medical tourism, the point here is that a financial shot in the arm is one less thing to worry about. And I also don't know of any charities that are giving out money to individuals. Today, as I write this, I saw on UK TV a blind man who has been refused treatment on the NHS reaching out to fundraise for a private operation. So this option of self-financing is by no means rare and should really be considered if you are having doubts about the quality of your health care. This is where our project comes in – to help individuals help themselves.
MWAH! blog is now closed. Any stray links you may find, ignore them or let me know in a comment and I'll remove them.