Monday, 30 October 2017
Borderline personality disorder patients to benefit from new Centre of Excellence
Living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) has always been a struggle for Adelaide’s Melinda Burke, who first got the diagnosis 20 years ago.
At her lowest points she would stop eating and become self-destructive.
“I wouldn’t eat, and I would slash myself with a key, and I just wouldn’t eat anything, which is one of the signs of BPD. I had a lot of attempts of suicide as well,” she said.
Borderline personality disorder is not well known but it is relatively common, affecting somewhere between 1 per cent and 4 per cent of people.
There are thousands of South Australians with BPD and many struggle to get the psychiatric help they need.
For Melinda, turning up to an emergency department in distress was often a terrifying experience.
“It’s very intimidating. When they do find out that I have got BPD the [good] attitude [of medical practitioners] goes out the window,” she said.
“They are determined to get rid of you, out of emergency departments.”
Families, advocates, and the Dignity Party are hoping to change that, with the announcement of a new $10.25 million Centre of Excellence. The centre will have specialist clinicians, training and research.
“It’ll be great. It’ll be great to know that someone’s positive about us and what we’re going through,” Melinda said.
BPD is a relatively new diagnosis, and the causes are not known. People who have BPD often find it hard to regulate their emotions, are impulsive, have low self-esteem and can be self-sabotaging.
Until recently BPD was thought to be incurable, but recent studies have shown that with time and treatment 80 per cent of people reduce their symptoms, according to clinical psychiatrist Dr Martha Kent.
“There is a great deal of hope for this condition. It is one of the most treatable mental illnesses that are around,” she said.
“But it needs expertise, and it needs evidence-based treatment, and all of this requires resources.”
‘We cannot afford to wait any longer’
The centre will be established under the $41 million in funding the Dignity Party negotiated in return for its support of the State Government’s controversial bank tax.
Dignity Party MP Kelly Vincent said she had been lobbying for the centre for years, and was thrilled it would finally be funded.
“South Australia, with this great investment, finally has the chance to catch up to other states in saving money and saving lives,” she said.
Now aged 48, Melinda has a good psychiatrist and is getting the treatment that suits her condition. But her mother, Judy Burke, thinks it is unlikely Melinda will ever work or live independently.
“Had she been treated properly 20-odd years ago, I believe her life would have been better,” she said.
Judy hopes other families will be luckier, and is urging the Government to get started on the centre immediately.
“We have lost four people, four young women have died in four to five years,” she said.
“It’s just not good enough. We cannot afford to wait any longer, it needs to start now.”