What is it like to be an inpatient on a mental health ward?
In the second of this three part mini-series, Will shall be chatting to Ellie about her experiences of both being admitted to and working in mental health hospitals.
In the UK, a mental health or ‘psychiatric’ hospital or ward refers to an inpatient healthcare setting which specialises in the treatment of people who are considered to be experiencing a mental health crisis.
Mental hospitals, or what were referred to as ‘asylums’ until the early 1900s have always been – and remain – controversial. There is conflicting evidence surrounding the recovery benefits of inpatient admission, and whilst of course practices will vary between institutions, for decades the sector has been marred with scandals about the abuse and neglect of those in its care.
Content Warning: This conversation includes references to sectioning, suicide attempts and experiences of medical gaslighting.
Please note that this show does not constitute medical advice and is not a replacement for seeking professional help. You can find our more about the show and get signposting to support on our website anyamedia.net/livelyminds
W: Before we start today’s episode, just worth noting that this is only our second ever episode
recording IRL in real life.
E: That’s true.
W: We are sitting opposite each other in my living room in Newcastle.
E: I have Will’s cat Nala on my lap on a cushion.
W: And she’s very very comfortable and incredibly happy.
E: She’s absolutely tiny and she’s really really really cute.
W: And has been acting in quite an intense way towards you hasn’t she?
E: Yeah, she’s quite intense, but yeah, she really likes me. I was worried she wouldn’t and now she just like I can’t get her off me like I have to pull her off to try and just stand up and move.
W: Hello, my name is Will
E: and my name is Ellie
W: You are listening to Lively Minds the podcast about mental health challenges that go beyond the ebb and flow of the everyday.
E: The podcast that is less about how we deal with our mental health and more about how we understand it in the first place.
W: This is the second of a three episode mini-series in which I’m chatting to Ellie about her experiences of both being admitted to, and working in, mental health hospitals.
E: In our last episode we discussed what mental health hospitals are, what their purpose is and my experience of being admitted to a mental health ward as a patient.
W: If you haven’t heard that episode then we recommend you go back and listen to that before this one in which we’ll be finding out more about Ellie’s inpatient experiences.
W: So Ellie we left the last episode at you having just been admitted to inpatient care at a mental health hospital. Can we just pick up where we left off and continue that story?
E: Yeah so I think we left off with the nurse trying to find me another pillow. I believe I did have a pillow eventually at some point. So I was there for two weeks, roughly. I was allowed out for cigarettes, I was allowed out to go to the shop and I was still a bit mad so I didn’t really want to engage with any humans and I even found just going to the newsagents very stressful but it did mean I could go and get snacks. I was studying my psychology masters at that point so sometimes to get out of this room, which was just horrible, like there were just stains everywhere it was a pop-up camp bed that looked like it was from like the 1930s with a really thin mattress on and just like, the duvet was just like a blanket. The pillow I did eventually get was just like a scrunch of fabric. It was just horrible in there. There wasn’t a chair, there was nowhere to like, sit. It was just grim. So the only place I could sit with a table to like do some of my psychology work which I found helpful because it would, if I was able to, then it would, it would like distract me from, it was sort of grounding because I could just focus on taking some notes on a textbook so I could go and do that in the room which is also the canteen where everyone eats and people would just stare at me, like other people on the ward are just looking at me like what the hell is she doing and the nurses, and I genuinely felt at that point also like, I was very aware of well, if I do this I’m going to look more mad, if I don’t do this I’m going to look mad so what do I do? and so for me, that was like doing some of my work but then they’d come over and be like “oh what are you doing?” I’d be like “well I’m doing a Masters in Psychology at the moment” and they just look at me like “yeah, okay, sure you are”, and I was just like “okay whatever”.
When I was doing my placement I was working, it was for an arts charity so I’d got quite into like just playing around with art materials sort of therapeutically on my own.
W: Sorry which placement is this?
E: Sorry, my social work placement.
W: This was before you were admitted?
E: Yes. So by that point I’d started playing around with arts materials as a kind of therapeutic thing. So sometimes I’d sit in the corner of my weird room on this ward and like, do little paintings and I remember I was painting this quote like over and over again, not in a kind of obsessively repetitive way, but it was just stuck in my head that, by fact, I just found the quote so, I can actually read you it, so as I say I thought I was turning invisible
W: and if people don’t know what Ellie’s talking about please do listen to the previous episode
E: I’d forgotten the last line of the quote, which I find quite interesting, so I just was rewriting
the first three lines in different like paintings of space. The quote is from a guide to the bodhisattva’s way of life and it is “for as long as space remains, for as long as sentient beings remain, until then may I too remain”. That was what I kept like doing paintings around but there’s actually a line after that which is “to dispel the miseries of the world” which rounds off the
quote nicely. I find it quite interesting that I’d forgotten that last bit because that suggests that my being here has a purpose.
W: So just take us through that quote in terms of what it meant for you in the context of your situation.
E: So I thought I was turning invisible and yeah, as I said from the last episode when I turned up at the mental health hospital, they didn’t have a record of me arriving.
I was thinking about that quote a lot because I was just trying to remind myself that I am still here and as long as everything around me is here and other people around me exist. I do exist. I think that was that.
So I was doing that but the…the…
W: Were you continuing to think that you were invisible during your stay at the hospital as well? Was that still something that was playing in your mind?
E: Yes, yeah I’ll get to that in a second. So it was still like I said before, like I had sort of two minds, so one would be able to now and then, for example focus on taking some notes from a textbook and was very lucid but the other part of me was really freaking out more at this point because well, no one came and spoke to me. I was completely ignored by all the staff for my entire two week stay. I spoke to my named nurse once, had one appointment with a psychiatrist and I said to him “well nothing’s happened, I’ve not been given any different medication and no one’s even talked to me” and he said “well what do you expect this isn’t a B&B, no one’s got time to sit and talk to you” and I was just like “wow, well what do you expect Mr. Psychiatrist?” you know?
W: Did you ask him that? No, this was towards the end of my stay where I just wanted to leave and the nurse, to be fair, she just looked quite like sad and she said afterwards like “I’m really sorry I didn’t come and speak to you more, it’s just been so busy” and I was like “yeah I know and I understand why, but also what is the point of this hospital, like why am I here? What is this? No one even knows my name. Why on earth would I get better here? So the only time anyone paid attention to me was to very strictly follow the medication schedule. So you know, say one of, I’m on a lot of medications, I also have a lot of physical disabilities so I guess that’s particularly why the whole camp bed situation was, I remember it so well. So I was in quite a lot of pain there because I was so physically uncomfortable. So, the only time anyone paid attention was to come in, on the rotor and give me the meds. And so that was my only chance to talk to a member of staff. So when the person came in to give me my meds at whatever the four times that they’ve got on their spreadsheet, I try and say like, “Oh, do you know where my name nurse is? No one’s come and talked to me.” And sometimes they’d literally just walk out the room again mid-sentence, like not even acknowledge that I was talking to them.
E: Yeah, it was pretty horrible. So I’d say the first seven to ten days I was still, you know, that’s all blurred into one blob. But I remember getting so frustrated that I felt like I was just, I wasn’t doing this, but it felt like I could be standing there shouting “help, help, I’m on fire!” And everyone just walked past me as though I wasn’t there. So anyway, my pain wasn’t as bad as it could have been after a certain point, but I had nothing to do, no one would talk to me. So I just decided I’d make the most of it by making sure they gave me the maximum dose of painkillers that I was allowed just ’cause, I don’t know, I was just finding it really horrible in there.
But then there was a time where I did actually, you know, I needed all of my other medications, so like my evening meds, not pain-related ones, but for my other conditions. And there was no one at the pharmacy window and I kept saying, finding staff, like I was walking, I’d have to walk around to find a member of staff. Whenever I then found a member of staff, they’d be like, “What are you doing? “Why are you wandering around the corridor? “Go back to your room.” And I was like, but I’m trying to find a member of staff to say, I need my medication. And they’re like, “right, okay, fine. I’ll, I’ll look it up”. And then nothing happened. So it got to like 11 PM and I hadn’t had the medication I was due at about eight o’clock, which was pain medication, but also like a lot of other medication for different long-term health problems. And so I just lay on the floor in the middle of the corridor because the, the hospital was laid out in that old prison way. There was like an office in the middle and then loads of dead end corridors coming out of it, but like a prison or something, and the pharmacy window was like next to the office. And yeah, I just lay like a starfish. I’m very tall for the listeners. I’m like 5’11, so me lying as a starfish on the floor in the middle of a corridor takes up quite a lot of space. So I decided I’d just do that and then wait and see if anyone bothered to acknowledge me. It took about 15 minutes. Staff were just walking over me. They were just walking over the top of me as though I wasn’t there. Like, no one even bothered to turn around from a health and safety point of view and be like, “Can you stop lying in the corridor?” They just ignored me. And, you know, I was a very good patient.
There’s a lot of, kind of, literature about the idea of being a good patient and how that works in the medical model and things. But I wasn’t, you know, I didn’t kick off. I didn’t do anything … I just kept myself to myself. Partly because no one spoke to me. But, you know, it’s not like I had a previous time on the ward where I’d been acting out in what they would view as, you know, for attention or something. So they were just walking over the top of me. Also, I was only like mid 20s, so I was still like a young adult to be in there. One person eventually was like, why are you lying in the corridor? And I was like, you haven’t given me my medication for, I’m three hours late now. And they were like, well, the pharmacist’s not here. And I was like, yeah, I know, but no one will talk to me. So I’m just gonna lie here. And then eventually a pharmacist arrived and I got my meds and went back to my room. So yeah, it’s a bit ridiculous. Again, not good for the, I think I’m turning invisible situation, but the…
W: Because you, in a sense, you kind of were invisible.
E: I was invisible, I was completely invisible. And then this is the bit I definitely wanted to say on the podcast at the end of my stay, I’d had that meeting with a psychiatrist. I’d said that I’d like to go home and, you know, they’d put things in place like community mental health team and do all the referrals and I’d, you know, they’d phone and check in in two days, or something like that. We had my kind of leaving plan, which was for the next day. So I had it all arranged. I phoned a friend who drove like all the way to this hospital and sat in the car ’cause I didn’t know what time I’d be let out, whatever. You know, chatted to my nurse that day. We said goodbye. You know, we arranged that I could go home and then come back the next day to pick up the remainder of a prescription or something like that. So they were just doing my discharge papers, supposedly. I’m all packed, like holding a cushion and my dressing gown, mostly aware that I’m not invisible at this point. And I went with my bags. I was like, “Right, okay, so can I just go?” And she was like, “Yeah, basically, just we’ll call you later and you can come back tomorrow and get the remaining paperwork and the meds.” I was like, “Fine.” So I went to go out. You have to get the stuff to buzz you out. You know, this is exactly the same entrance that I was using regularly to just go out for a cigarette or go to the newsagents. Although I only went to the news agents once because, as I say, I found it quite scary. So I was standing there with all my bags waiting to go out and a nurse came up and I was like “Hiya, can you let me out please?” and he was like, I’d not seen him before, he said “Oh, where are you going?” This was about six o’clock-ish so it was the switch over between nurse shifts. He said “Where are you going?” I was like “Well, I’m going home” and he was like “No, I don’t – no you’re not” and I said “What? I’ve- what?” and he was like “No, you’re not, we’ve not got anyone leaving this evening” and I was like “I’ve literally just spent all day with my nurse, like all afternoon with my nurse making sure I’ve got the right papers and etc etc. My friends outside in a van, like I’m leaving and he was like, “I’m going to go check that”. So he went to check that, came back was like, yeah, no, you’re not put on here to be discharged today. And I was at that point I did, I was just like, you can’t do this to me.
E: You cannot do this to me. I have been a good patient for two weeks and you’ve treated me like I’m nothing. And now I just want to get out of here. You won’t even notice because you’re not, not even giving me my medication properly. And I was like, well, can I just go out for a cigarette and he was like “well the thing is now you’re quite upset I don’t feel like it’s safe to let you out for a cigarette” and I was like “but I’m allowed to go out for a cigarette” and he was like “well actually” and this is one of the sections that a nurse can make a decision to, in theory hold you for a certain amount of time without, until it needs to be overseen by a clinician or whatever so then they wouldn’t let me out for a cigarette either and I’m standing at the door with like all my stuff thinking that I’m finally going to leave with a friend in the car park who they wouldn’t let come and see me, they wouldn’t let me go and see him, and they wouldn’t let me out for a cigarette, and I just completely lost it and just broke down into tears and had a massive panic attack because it was just the worst feeling ever. It was a combination of feeling trapped. I mean, it’s just, it’s just medical gas lighting, like, you know, just like I spent all day preparing of how I’m gonna leave and packing and then literally it’s just a member of staff that I’ve never seen before just goes “no no that never happened you’re not leaving today” it’s like what? how do you argue with that and who has the power? I have zero power in that situation and then I was so upset that they were, I was trying to explain to them that they were effectively holding me because they wouldn’t let me out for a cigarette that they were holding me on this like emergency section thing that I couldn’t, to be fair I was like “I’ve just got a hundred out of a hundred in my mental health law exam” and they were just like piss off, which is fair. They had to like call in an emergency doctor at like one in the morning because I just couldn’t stop having a panic. I was just like, in hysterics, upset. I could not stop crying, I think I threw up from crying loads. You know like a child does when they have a crying fit and then they like are a bit sick and then they have a nap.
It was a bit like that, but I had to like see a doctor and be prescribed some you know emergency, I can’t remember which one it was like, you know one of the, something like Valium or something that like calms you down or whatever, I mean it didn’t touch the sides because I’ve been prescribed opioid painkillers for so long that they don’t really do much.But I had to like see this doctor and go through this whole thing again. And then I think I went home the next day in the evening, but I can’t remember, I was just, like I felt more their idea of mad in that last day than I did when I was standing in the foyer feeling like I was turning invisible.
Hmm like if they the next day said you can’t leave still. I mean, I would have tried to like break out of the door. I did not, I could not, stay there any longer.
W: Okay, well, let’s just quickly go to a break and we’ll continue the conversation in a moment
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W: You mentioned earlier you were sitting in bed thinking how should I behave? What will make me seem more mad?
W: What will make me seem less mad? and then something else that I noted was you mentioned that the nurse at the door, when he said well can I go out for a cigarette then he was like well you seem quite agitated now and distressed so actually maybe we shouldn’t and it always becomes a self-fulfilling…
E: And I was like of course I’m distressed, I think I’m going home and at the last minute you’ve said I’m not.
W: But I guess what I’m getting at is it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle doesn’t it? is that if
you’re in an environment that’s very stressful which is supposedly for treating people who have
mental anguish but the environment is an environment that creates mental anguish, it can see how it can just so become just like this vicious circle of it just feeding itself.
E: Yeah. There’s a brilliant chapter in the psychopath test by John Monson where he goes to visit the guy who he has a good relationship with who had pretended to be air quotation marks insane, in order to avoid a custodial sentence and by just quoting bits of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and then is at Broadmoor Hospital I think. And it’s just every time John wants to speak to him he’s just like is recounting the number of ways in which he’s tried to prove to them that he’s not insane and every single thing they’re like, so like, he’d put on a suit and be like, look I can dress myself – I’m not, you know, I’m completely with it and they were like, “yeah, that’s what a psychopath would do”. And then he’ll do go the other way and behave like a good patient and be like, look, I’ve been doing all of the activities, surely you can see there’s nothing- they’re like, “yeah”, and then he’d start writing a book or doing something productive and they’re like,”delusions of grandeur, a psychopathic move”, but yeah.
Obviously, I wasn’t being held there for any kind of notion that I was a psychopathic, just to clarify. And I think it was especially hard that I’d just spent, you know, a year and a half working very intensely in adult mental health, including knowing all the legislation off by heart, which if you’ve noticed by the lack of me specifying section numbers I’ve now forgotten all the specificities, but at that point I was like hot on it, and it was just so disheartening, like, you know, I know loads of those legal safeguards that are there aren’t put into practice really but just experiencing it on the other end was just, you know, I just constantly had checklists in my head like well this should have happened this should have happened, none of this has happened that sort of thing.
So I did make one sort of inpatient friend who had this ongoing war with another patient and they sort of had like two, kind of, I don’t know it was almost like they were each like leaders of a gang, they sort of had their own group but they hated each other and they weren’t allowed near each other. The staff were scared of one of the patients and she had two staff with her always. She was allowed to just smoke in the corridor, smoke in a room, do whatever the hell she wanted, I’m presuming because the kickoff that happens when and if they try to challenge they’ve made the judgment that it’s not worth it, which is like completely understandable. There were three suicide attempts made by other patients while I was in there on my corridor that I can remember so you know, you’ll be trying to do something calming and because of that ridiculous structure, you know, the old French prison structure with the dead end corridor, I mean dead end corridors, like, how is that safe? It’s just, in a situation where you want to keep an eye on everyone it’s not a great architecture. Yes, you’d be trying to calm down and then there’s just like alarms going off and stuff running up and down and staff shouting at each other, getting angry at each other, getting angry with the patients. You know, I have like, I want to make it very clear that I have met and worked with some like amazing staff at mental health hospitals and it is such a hard job and it’s so under resourced. You know, how do you manage that? 32 patients, three members of staff and a suicide attempt. Well, you need all three members of staff to deal with that patient who needs a lot of attention, support and things like that. It’s not a case of poor management on the ward manager’s part, is it? There is no way to safely manage three staff on a board of 30 people. It’s just not safe and it’s not doable. I fully understand why a lot of things happen the way they do, but it, yeah, it just makes everything worse.
W: And did this kind of slightly, did this sort of tense environment continue throughout the day and throughout the night as well? Was it kind of pretty constant or whether ebbs and flows or
E: to be honest i really can’t remember the details but I’d say probably afternoon evening is when it was most happening, but there were no activities on the ward that also made me sad because I’ve just been running activities every week on a different mental health ward in a different hospital so there was nothing wasn’t offered anything there wasn’t even like a, there wasn’t really a space to hang out.
W: and from speaking with other people would you say that your experience was typical.
E: I know a lot, lot of people who have had much worse experiences than me in mental health hospitals. I by no means think my experience is unique or by any means the worst. I know people who have had far worse experiences unfortunately. I also know people who have had better experiences, often because of things like, by chance they’ve ended up at a particular ward that is for example, very small and calm, so everyone’s kind of actually sort of treated, in a sense you know, as in there’s, there’s stuff to do and there’s staff checking in on you who’d chat to you and get to know you but you know that’s,
W: What kind of experience somebody’s gonna have is it a postcode lottery thing,
E: There’s an element of postcode lottery yeah but mostly it’s bed lottery
W: Just for non UK listeners when we talk about postcode lottery we mean that really depends on where you live in the country
E: yeah like where you are geographically depends on what, I mean yeah, it’s partly that I mean. It’s a bit like physical health hospitals, it’s a bit of both, isn’t it? Sometimes if someone needs particular treatment, they may get sent off to a hospital on the other side of the country. But I know, know, quite a lot of people who have, say they were sectioned in Manchester, have been sent to a bed in Brighton. That happens quite a lot because there are so few beds.
W: mmm. And we have spoken before about the representation of mental health hospitals in popular culture, especially in sort of films and stuff.
W: And there was that kind of classic One-Flew-Over-the-cookies-nest kind of image that’s often given of people shuffling around, dressed in their gowns.
E: The clozapine shuffle.
W: Yeah, sort of stuck in front of a television, kind of people acting mad, you know, like by singing or hugging or running around or jumping around or dancing around or whatever it might be. What’s your view on the way that that popular culture betrays mental health hospitals.
E: I should say now I’ve not actually ever watched One Flew Over the Cookies Nest, which I should do, because I don’t generally find watching, like I don’t generally find, you know, films on
mental health wards like triggering, it’s not a particular, it doesn’t, you know, I wouldn’t avoid films that have that in, but I think maybe I’m, maybe I’m worried that, I don’t, I don’t really know anything about the actual story of the film, so I just sort of say a bit.
W: Well okay, but just from your own experience.
E: Yeah, so quite rightly, Western media is criticized for portraying mental health in a very two-dimensional binary. You’re either sane or insane. This is what insane people look like and do, and where they’re kept and stored, like separated from society. Like that is often criticized and like quite rightly. However, been a patient on mental health wards, I’ve worked on mental health wards, I have a very good friend who’s a mental health nurse and I think Hal was saying, he’s a comedian who we spoke to on one of our other episodes, a lot of the time people with long-term kind of mental health difficulties have a brilliantly dark sense of humour about both themselves and the world and, I do find that sometimes when I’m in kind of like, I don’t know how to describe the type of, but, sort of do-gooder, do-good, kind of, you know, lefty, well-meaning, what my friend’s dad would call, like, knitting yoghourts and munching the guardian type circles.
W: or munching yoghourts and knitting the guardian, maybe.
Yeah, munching – no, knitting yoghourts and munching the guardian, where there’s like a really un-nuanced idea of political correctness and what you can and can’t do and that sort of thing. I’ve been in a lot of conversations where someone said like, “oh yeah, and then you know in this film and you know it’s a film that I’ve seen and I don’t, I mean if I watched it now maybe I would, maybe if I re-watched it I’d see it, but I mean I thought it was a good representation of mental health hospital, where it definitely resonated with me, I definitely didn’t find the representation of a mental health inpatient ward offensive but I remember someone was like, “yeah you know I mean it’s just ridiculous that they still film, still put out these like you know these narratives that mental health wards are just you know either just full of chaos or you know people really just drugged up, like you know, obviously that’s not what it’s like”, and I remember just like snorting with laughter and they were like, “I know it’s just ridiculous, and I was like “you have never ever ever ever been on a mental health ward have you? because it is either carnage or everyone dosed up to the eyeballs. Usually some kind of seesaw between the two. And you have to have a sense of humour about it when you’re working in it, and when you’re on it. But you know, that is what it is. People are very unwell when they go in and then they are usually prescribed really, really high doses of drugs. Antipsychotics and you know, Valium type drugs and that sort of thing, or, or and or, they are still in a very very very intense period of so-called psychosis and things like that that they’re going through so, of course those things happen on the ward because that’s why people are there and that is how the ward treats people is with huge amounts of medication you know.
E: I was running an art group, this is when I was working on one, I was running an art group and there was a new person shadowing me so I was like, you know, just a few basic things. Make sure you sit with your back to the wall when we’re at the table. This is important for obvious reasons. The obvious reasons being you don’t want to have your back to the room so, cause you can’t see what’s going on behind you.
W: This was advice to you.
E: No, I gave that advice to the person who was shadowing me. So I was like, when we go in, just make sure you sit on one of the corner chairs so you’ve got your back to the wall so you can see what’s going on in the room. She walked in and went and sat like at the other end of the table with her back to the rest of the room and I was like you need to come and sit here, but by that point another patient had come over who was, needed quite a lot of support and so we had to just get on with it, but I kept saying to her you need just move the chair around here. They’re very very, heavy heavy heavy chairs in this ward that I was on because, well to prevent people from picking them up and throwing them and things like that, but a bit like how you you know, there are stories of, of parents suddenly acquiring superhuman strength when they think, you know, their child is in danger underneath the car and they’re able to suddenly lift up an entire car. Like, that strength that adrenaline gives you. Yeah, that adrenaline happens when people are very, you know, psychotic. So people can still lift up those chairs if they want to. Case in point. She kept not moving a chair over. She’s like, “Oh, it’s fine.” I was like, “No, I’m telling you, it’s not fine.” Anyway, then out of note, this didn’t happen before on the ward, but we’re all having a great time painting away. And it’s a tiny physical space we were in as well. And someone just, yeah, it kicked off basically. And as the nurses ran over to restraint, they picked up a chair and lobbed it across the room and it missed her head by like inches. You know, and I was just like, that is why you sit by the wall. And so that’ll happen. Sometimes it’s a bit of a domino effect and other people might get upset because that’s, one person’s got really upset or whatever. But often that will happen. It sort of gets taken care of, or sort of, I don’t know, from a witness perspective, the nurses sort of have calmed them down or take them away to a different room. And then everything just carries on as normal. We carry on painting and providing no one’s got upset.
W: So in a sense then, films, where they maybe get it wrong is in that very binary idea of people are either mad or they are sane and not ever kind of being interested in the grey areas in between. But where they may be…
E: Which in my view is an overall ethos of how mental health is generally presented. It’s not just about the, the ward
E: it’s like you know, these are mad people and they are different to not mad i.e quote unquote normal people
E: that’s like rubbish but we do have like modern, like more modern film like you know in the last you know 30 years or so, there are more films that obviously explore very, like character driven and explore mental health and grief and a whole range of experiences so that’s better in that sense
W: but where the old tropes actually depict an environment that’s somewhat chaotic and very full-on at times. That actually is, is often the truth.
E: What is?
W: The chaos.
E: Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, yeah, I think anyone who works on an award will tell you the same thing that’s not… But then sometimes, yeah, it’s super chilled, you know?
W: So after you left the hospital…
E: Mmmm eventually.
W: After you were eventually discharged, what happened next?
E: I think I spent a long time promising to myself that I would never go mad again, so I didn’t have to go back there. The one good thing actually was that that admission is what led to me then having all the referrals and care in the community that I should have had anyway and that I was supposed to have had, but then there’s you know bureaucratic rubbish, referrals not going through, teams not having enough time, but like at that, when I came out I was then with the community mental health team, had a named social worker for the first time and they were, and I was able to meet them and they were able to kind of like help me put a bit of a plan in place and just sort of sort out when my next appointments were and what dose of what I was on and and kind of look at the sort of more holistic aspects of life that were, what were making my life difficult, and try and help me sort those out, so that was really good because yeah I mean I’ve not been back since then and that admission was quite a few years ago. Like five, five I think.
Looking back on it, do you think it was necessary for you to be admitted to a mental health hospital? Did it improve your situation?
E: There definitely was an element of how awful certain aspects of my time there were that snapped me out of some of what I was going through.
W: Oh right.
E: So that’s not really, I’d say, did I, you know, do I want that? But, there’s two questions there. One was do I think I needed to?
W: Yeah, was it necessary?
E: I think so because, you know, I needed respite and to be looked after somewhere safe. The hospital is where that could happen. It doesn’t mean that I think anyone in my state definitely needs to go to a mental health hospital. You know, someone might go to a family member or something for a break and receive some other type of community and mental health support but I didn’t have that option so yeah, hospital was the option.
W: I guess its,
E: And I understand that there’s hardly any beds and social workers aren’t exactly for that reason keen to be admitting people, so I take the fact that the social worker wanted me to go, to you know, sort of trust an element of that, but I didn’t receive any treatment there that helped me.
W: So in a sense it was necessary that you needed that restbite and that safe place and somewhere to recover,
W: but the actual environment you went into was far from ideal for achieving that.
E: Yes exactly.
W: Or at least insofar as I did achieve that, it kind of achieved it in the wrong ways.
E: Yeah, it achieved it in the wrong ways.
Yeah because you know psychological harm is a form of harm and it was harmful for me to be there. If I’d gone to a more peaceful small hospital, I visited someone in one once that was much more like that and that is what I needed and absolutely I think that would have helped but as we’ve said you don’t get to pick and choose.
W: Well thank you so much for chatting to us Ellie and next episode we will be talking about your experiences of working in mental health hospitals
W: which will be really interesting as well and, your work doing sort of more broader advocacy work as well would be really interesting to talk about.
E: Yeah sure.
E: Thank you so much everyone for listening to me ramble about my experiences. I really hope you enjoyed the episode. Please do tune in again in two weeks for another episode of Lively Minds The Mental Health Podcast.
W: Please note that this show does not constitute medical advice and is not a replacement for seeking professional help. You can find signposting to support on our website
E: Make sure you keep up to date with our shows by subscribing wherever you get your podcasts.
W: Take care and bye for now.
E: Bye bye!