Last week, after a manic episode I was admitted to hospital. Even in my extreme throes of a manic episode I knew that the psych ward was where I needed to be, thinking back it was more a case of needing an escape, needing somewhere where being manic, being depressed, suicidal, etc was the norm, needing to be somewhere I felt was safe, away from responsibilities and the routine of life, I was not thinking of my family only of my own self preservation.
Now, almost a week later I sit, looking around at the other “inmates” and see how unwell I must have been, I read with horror the messages I sent to friends and to my therapist and all I want now is to go home.
Going home can be scary after spending time in hospital, after 2 or 3 days you have become institutionalised, the outside world is a scary place. I have been “allowed” out on my own for a couple of days but today was the first time I ventured out in to the big world out there, It felt noisy, people seemed to be staring at me (although I fully realise that actually no one was interested in me, its my vulnerabilities arising) It felt rushed, it felt unfriendly.
The psych ward, although not the friendliest place is a haven for those who need it, we all have a common bond, and even if in the outside world we would have no contact, no life experiences binding us together in the ward we are all as one.
There are constant fights, there is constant bickering, coupled with manic laughing and the inability of some patients to stay still, is all part of what anyone admitted will experience, we don’t ask the others questions about their lives, not until we are on the mend, we do not know what they do for work, their relationship status, what has bought them to where they are now but we all support in our own way the other.
That is, excluding the staff, As I look around the ward now, the nurse next to me is reading the football scores, another is watching Tv, two are in the office arguing about something and so it goes on, I wonder about the level of training given to staff on a psych ward, especially night staff, they seem to be lethargic, ambivalent and cold, they give the impression that they would rather be anywhere else than here.
Having “tried out” a few different psych wards, the one I am in at the moment is better then others, in fact it is one of the best I have been in. The rooms are cleaned daily, there are bright pictures on the wall, inspirational quotes on the walls, there is a big TV room and an occupational therapy room, the dining area is clean and hygienic.
It amazes me though, the way the staff change as soon as a family member or friend enters the ward, they seem to suddenly have all the time in the world to talk to you, to explain what is happening etc.
I would like to give an insight in to what it is like for a patient, and the lack of humanity shown, and (I feel) the power trip being staff in a place such as this brings.
A regular night, a lady who believes she has demons inside her, and Jesus also inside her is walking back and forth, she preaches to anyone who will listen and has caused a lot of terrible fights between patients, the staff tell her to leave people alone, she raises her voice, 3 staff members grab her, they drag her to her room, she fights them, scared and confused, we (the patients ) sit in shock, she was not threatening anyone at that time, she was searching for help.
8.00pm, it is announced that it is time for medication, now, for most of us this means that we will be asleep within 20 minutes, as the meds knock you out, meaning that we will be awake at 4.am, we state that we are not prepared to take our medication at that point and will take it in an hour or so…we are not children and refuse to be treated as such, The ward is understaffed, the nurses want a “quite” night, hence early medication, quite patients.
A girl knocks on the office door, wanting to know when she will be receiving her antibiotics as she has been admitted whilst having a chest infection, she stands at the door for a long time till anyone acknowledges her, she is then brushed off with “I’m busy ask someone else” except there is no one else everyone is “to busy”
I ask to go outside (as is my right) the nurse looks at me as if I have not spoken, she turns her back and walks away, I approach her again, and ask her to unlock the door, finally she answers me “I’m busy ask someone else”, this happens 5 times before someone eventually opens the door for me, all the while rolling her eyes at the inconvenience.
Two staff members stand together, the are laughing, hysterically, speaking in their own language, we sit and look at them in disgust, yet it is as if we are not there.
The list goes on and on, I must stress, that there are some nurses who show more care, who will sit and chat to you and be truly interested in what you are saying, they will encourage you to go to a therapy group, they will ask you how you are and want to know the honest answer.
I ask for my inhaler which I have bought in with me on admission, I feel short of breath and I need it as I have asthma, I am told that it is not on the chart therefore I am not allowed it, after begging for 30 minutes I am finally allowed it.
When a person is mentally unwell, they as a human, with emotions, worries, fears, love, happiness, care disappear, we become as animals in a cage, our basic needs are catered for but the support we need to recover we receive from other patients and not from staff members.
The system of mental health care in hospitals needs to be urgently reviewed, nurses ought to be doing the job because they care, they actually want to help not because it is an easy job which anyone can do.
15/16 years ago, the psych wards were scary places, places that friends and family feared going in to, that has changed, as I said the wards are bright and airy but the care has tragically fallen in quality.
There is no humanity…there is only a feeling of power over others.
Lots of love