The hospital where we went when he was ill is just down the road from where we live. It is 18 minutes by bus, 10 minutes but car on a quiet day. The Emergency department is on the left. The Mental hospital is on the right. There is a visitor’s car park in front of the Mental hospital. That is where we parked the car. That is where we waited for a couple of hours to be seen by a psychiatrist. That is where I had to make my own way that day because Saagar refused to have me in the car with him and his father. That is where he should have been when he was severely ill a few weeks later. That is where he could have been saved.
That is where I went this afternoon to watch a play called ‘Hearing Things’, a play co-produced by patients and professionals, based on insights derived from 6 weeks of workshops involving actors and people with a mental illness, offering both an opportunity for expression, transformation and co-creation. Through a cast of 3, we met people of different races and age groups. It was about challenging assumptions. It was about the empathy and personalities of patients. It was about ‘the system’ and the dynamics within it, mental well being of health care providers and role-reversal. It was about giving people a chance.
“I am off now to be mad and I don’t have to be sectioned for it”, remarked one of the participants as drama gave him the freedom to be who he is, without fear of judgment. It was about the possibility of being ‘re-assembled’. It was powerful and moving. It did not mince words. I spoke loud and clear. It was accessible, funny, clever and heart-breaking.
One young person describes his experience of drama:
“…after you do the drama you get this feeling…it feels as if whatever was bothering you went away and you feel light and can do whatever you want around you, it makes the day simpler and you can concentrate on your activities, it makes you feel better, like at the end of the day when you come home from work tired and you want to put your feet up, you don’t feel guilty relaxing as you have done a hard days work. I wanted to understand the person and put myself in their shoes. At the end of it I felt good. 150% happy!”
It was about creating a new paradigm of relating to people suffering with mental illness. It was all heart.
I am interested to read that such creativity exists within psychiatric hospitals and more of this sort of vision is needed. Like you, I always believed my son would be ‘saved’ in hospital. In the event, for a clever university student (also a linguist!), my son found hospital worse than the illness, and a fate worse than death. Nor was it safe…he was able to get away… In an ideal world those suffering from mental illness are better being cared for at home by their loved ones but this places the onus on communication with and education for the carers so they understand how to support their loved one. I have to blot out all those ‘car incidents’ that you describe as we experienced hundreds of this type of incident in various forms…with this sort of breakdown of relationships (which is common with mental illness) families are often not there to support. The system, as it is, needs them to be because care in the community can only go so far. I’m sorry to rant but where are the answers?
Your comment describes the situation so well. And then there is the issue of confidentiality which was used so many times to block our involvement even when he was too ill to make reasoned decisions about his own health (again not uncommon in mental health). Yes, a mixed model would be better, but we are still a very long way off that. All I feel we can do, individually & collectively, is keep plugging away at ‘the system’ until the lessons are learned and the right resources are made available.
Yes Brenda. It is a pity that all the lessons that could and should have been learnt from previous preventable suicides have not been learnt. The same mistakes have been allowed to occur again and again costing many lives. We need to tell the stories of our children loud and clear, bring the issue of ‘suicide’ out of the shadows, drive home the messages and demand better care for everyone. Each one of us must believe that we can make a difference. It might take time but as you said we must keep ‘plugging away’ at it. xxx
I don’t have any answers. You are right about carer support and education. It is vital. I suppose each individual will have unique needs that will change again and again. It is about identifying those needs and putting the required resources in place. The problem is the tendency to stick with either a social model or a medical model of mental illness. What we need is for each of these models to understand the other and then, coming together of the two to provide the care required. I think. xxx