A woman who suffered a “psychotic break” and was taking 32 co-Codamol tablets a day for six months has said she feels left behind by the mental health services.

The 40 year old, who wants to remain anonymous, but is speaking out to shine a light on what she is going through and to give strength to those who may be going through the same in recent months.

While she suffers from depression and anxiety, the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic has served only to elevate her problems.

But when she finally broke down, she was told that due to her addiction to co-Codamol she would not be seen by the mental health team until the addictions team had seen her, with sometime in October being the date.

“I was taking it for back pain but obviously I started overtaking it,” she explained. “I thought it was for dealing with the pain but it was dealing with blocking things out and my mental health was going downhill.”

The lockdown did not help as she said she had more time to think and began having flashbacks of previous trauma in her life.

With the recommended daily intake of co-Codamol being eight tablets in 24 hours, the 40 year was taking four times that amount to “numb” herself to what she was feeling.

Four weeks ago, she a “psychotic break” where she doesn’t recall anything she did over a four hour period.

“My daughter said it was like I wasn’t here. Basically on the floor saying I was digging, trying to get to the core of the earth. I ripped the curtains down in the living room trying to climb it saying I was trying to get out of a dark hole.”

After this she slept for two days and it was at this stage worried relatives rang for an ambulance.

She was taken to hospital where assessments were carried out to see what damage had been done due to the excessive amounts of the painkiller she was taking.

A nurse from the mental health crisis team spoke to her but then there was no word until she rang them a week later.

A telephone assessment followed and she was called again the next day to be told that due to her addiction she would be passed over to the addictions team.

“I got off the phone and it knocked me backwards. Because I thought I’d be seen pretty soon to get my anti-depressants changed.

“I thought to myself I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and for them to turn around and tell me that, it was like I went into complete darkness again. I turned to you for help but you are turning me away, where do I go now?”

In contact with the addictions team, she was told it could be October before any treatment commenced and will also be then to change her anti-depressants.

The 40 year old was full of praise for her GP who put her on a three week reduction programme to get her off the painkiller and she has sought out private therapy as she did not know when she would get an appointment with mental health services.

“I felt like stuck in limbo where I don’t know where to go from here. It has taken a lot for me to come forward and look for help.

“Other people might be going through the exact same thing and not coming forward or coming forward and getting the exact same response as I got.”

The Western Health and Social Care Trust (Western Trust) does not comment on the individual treatment and care of its patients but a spokesperson said: “The Western Trust Adult Mental Health Service works in collaboration with service users and in partnership with family and carers, community and voluntary providers to ensure that the service user receives the most appropriate treatment in a timely manner, by the right people in a suitable location.

“In Northern Ireland all statutory and commissioned voluntary services work within a stepped care pathway to enable access to appropriate care and intervention based on presenting need and risk assessment. The use or misuse of substances does not exclude people from accessing mental health crisis services within this pathway.

“The regionally agreed access target is nine weeks. The Western Trust Alcohol and Drugs Services operated within this target prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and post-Covid service recovery plans aim to return the waiting list to within the agreed nine week target in the coming weeks.”

The Spokesperson added: “Anyone who is in despair or crisis themselves or anyone who has concerns about a friend or relative should avail of Lifeline’s free confidential support service. Lifeline counsellors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 0808 808 8000. Trained counsellors will listen to you and give you the help and support you need in confidence.”