Steven is one of hundreds of people who could be locked up against their will if the Mental Health Bill becomes law. The 31-year-old first began suffering from depression while training to be an Army officer at Sandhurst

When I began getting depressed I went to see the padre at Sandhurst, and then the doctor. The response was "You? Only people from council estates get depressed."

When I began getting depressed I went to see the padre at Sandhurst, and then the doctor. The response was "You? Only people from council estates get depressed."

I got kicked out two weeks before my commission. I was on a final exercise in south-west France and everyone else was tipsy. I was walking back to camp and was mugged by two French teenagers. I went to the gendarmerie but they couldn't understand what I was saying. I lashed out and hit them and they drew their pistols.

The adjutant intervened and made sure it was not a criminal offence. He asked if I had any way of explaining myself. I said I did not. My record says I have exemplary service. I was in shock when I left because it [the Army] was a brotherhood. I was admitted to a mental hospital for six weeks. This was a voluntary open unit, and I was given medication to zonk me out. Then I got very drunk and went to Accident & Emergency.

I was offered drug treatment but not therapy. A psychiatrist said I had a personality disorder. This is what it says on my records but it's a medical cop-out. This term is used to cover a wide band of people, and it means the doctors don't know what is wrong.

It's impossible to access mental health services in Newcastle, where I live. I'm told that part of my problem is I'm quite polite when I present myself. If a person like me finds it difficult to access resources, then I dread to think what happens to others.

I should be having cognitive therapy but will have to wait 18 months before I get it. In the meantime, my doctor has told me to present myself to A&E whenever I'm at a low point. I've done this before and all that happens is a junior doctor says: "Go home and have a cup of tea".

I get lots of support from my sister but we don't talk as a family. Both my parents were doctors and alcoholics. They were two professionals who did not talk very much. My mother was in a mental hospital in her thirties so I'm probably predisposed to depression.

I've had excellent support from the academic staff at Newcastle University. My illness has not affected my intelligence: I came first in the masters degree I took in January. But it has affected my social relationships. My illness twists my thoughts. I tend to withdraw and stay in my room. I'm not realising my full potential.

All we [the mentally ill] are doing is asking for is more help. These reforms are not going to solve a long-term problem. They are harsh and inhumane.

The public perception is that people with mental illness are just narcissistic. But I'd challenge anyone to stand in my shoes for just half an hour and then tell me how they feel.

Steven (not his real name) was interviewed by Sophie Goodchild

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