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A Special Hospital - From the Inside

I would like to thank anybody who took part in protests that helped delay the new Mental Health Act Bill. The Bill contains quite frightful plans to build several new super hospitals similar to the one I'm sat in at this very moment, mulling over thoughts of a future that does not belong to me.

This service is suffering at the straining hands of over-population because the doctors are trying too hard to fight continued detention in their reluctance to let people out, and the beds have become makeshift coffins till a more permanent six foot pine arrangement becomes appropriate.

When writing a report for a tribunal the doctors scour through the various reports by psychology, social workers, teachers and nurses and pick out only the bad bits, therefore not giving the tribunal a full picture of the patient before them, but just a snapshot of his whole make up, broken down into derogatory terminology and the worst part at that. It is this behaviour that scares the patients out of co-operating with psychology and is therefore a counter-productive method as it helps nobody and keeps people detained beyond the necessary time scale. If I was paranoid it would seem this was a deliberate manoeuvre.

When I asked my doctor about the reason for this structured slander, she said, "If I tell the tribunal the whole story it would be harder for me to prove to them the reason you are detained". And so, on that classic quote it is settled, she is covering up crucial evidence to strengthen her argument for an unstable cause.

The government stand around scratching their heads wondering what to do about the rise in violent crime and some of the answers are right here inside the minds of mentally ill people who, like myself, have become violent due to a psychotic episode. The doctors who are scaring the patients out of co-operating are at the same time depriving the whole country of a safer community. "Sometimes you have to look inside to find out what's going on outside." My doctor is resorting to blackmail techniques. She says, "If you don't work with psychology you won't be allowed any pen friends, ground parole, shopping trips or home visits".

Diminished responsibility is an artificial anomaly. The criminals who do their crimes out of badness have more rights and privileges these days than the people who were suffering profound mental despair at the time of their crimes. In some cases the people I meet in here have not even broken the law but they're being subjected to a life-restricting regime that deprives them of more rights than the criminal penal system. The answer to the overcrowding problem isn't to build more prison hospitals, it's to create more day care centres in prisons, and expand the prisons inreach projects like the ones run by some social services departments.

Another area at the Hospital that is raising concern among other patients is the reclassification of mentally ill people to personality disorder wards where people are kept as long as 40 years. That's a lot of bread and water. Recently the number of people that have been kept here more than 20 years was attracting unwanted attention, so the government ordered the doctors to let go of their prized antiques. But the doctors were reluctant to let a flood of shuffling pensioners on to the street so instead they sent the patients to the two other Special Hospitals. That way the Home Office gets new statistics. This move has created a substantial number of bed spaces on the personality disorder wards that the hospital want to fill quickly before it causes budget disruption. But due to a lack of healthy "psychos" the number of dual diagnosis (Mental Illness/Personality Disorder) cases has gone up tenfold, meaning that severely mentally unstable people, who are also particularly vulnerable, are being subjected to an environment where they are surrounded by psychopaths who will take advantage. This will be subsequently detrimental to their overall well-being. The existence of the dual diagnosis is confusing as it cannot be tested to good effect. It would be difficult to distinguish between one's mental illness and schizoid traits of the personality as mentally ill people can be both paranoid and impulsive, and often a mental illness makes it hard to show empathy due to loss of touch with surrounding circumstances.

The doctors here completely ignore any reports that write in the patients' favour and are therefore undermining other professionals' opinions such as independent tribunal doctors. It's hard to accuse a doctor of this kind of misconduct at the same time as trying to convince a tribunal that you have no more paranoid symptoms.

Here patients are judged by their crimes, so no real nursing goes on because the nurses don't like to feel as though they are doing favours for law breakers, and make no effort to hide it, sometimes using terms like "evil scum" and "dirty nonces". There is very little social interaction between nurses and patients and they seem to spend most of the time avoiding having to do anything for us by giving quick speeches about staff shortages and making themselves promptly unavailable. And you can expect to see your doctor about four or five times a year at the end of which they will write a report that claims to know you better than your own mother.

Far beyond the comprehension of most people's minds is the sheer barbaric nature of the seclusion regime at the hospital. When you are placed in seclusion your shoes are removed and there is a cold hard floor so walking is impossible. The windows have black blinds behind a perspex sheet to stop all natural daylight. No nurse, books, television or exercise all day, every day. Just two meals a day, one at 12 noon and one at 4pm, and that's all the social interaction you can expect for the day too. Sometimes the main light is kept on 24/7 for observation. You can expect to go up to 15 hours without a drink of water. You have to use a paper bowl as a toilet that will be changed the following day and try to sleep with the smell. There's no place to wash your hands in there either. It's impossible to summons the staff's attention as you get the usual staff shortage speech. The hospital call it a less stimulating environment but the reality is that it's social and sensory deprivation more similar to the tactics used by the army to break prisoners of war.

Ever since the Tilt Report things have become less and less pro-patient and concentrated more on how to protect staff in the event of another scandal. They have shut down all the facilities, full sized outdoor football pitch, tennis courts, cricket pitch, bowling green, gardens and art department. All these occupational facilities are maintained expensively on a regular basis but none of them are ever used due to the fact the Hospital claims not to be insured, so it's an awful waste of space. I've been on a waiting list of 15 months and counting just trying to get an education.

I trust this information may be put to good use. Any suggestions about what the patients at the Hospital should do about these dilemmas we face would be very welcome.

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