a true story: to D a 21st century 1st world Nelson Mandela
Lets say you have an accident and lose half your body functions; you sustain severe brain damage (but
not enough for you to be oblivious to what's going on) and have to relearn how to talk, shave, walk (if
you can) and discover who the hell you are. Well, the health service's "responsibility of care" might fork
out for a short while for you to recoup enough to do some of those things. Then, when you're just about
progressing from nightmare to a semi-functional, semi-stable reality, in this strange place full of
strangers, nowhere near your home and family, the health budget will be rescinded and they will find that
their responsibility of care has been fulfilled. You have brain damage, not mental illness.
The ball is now batted to social services. You are the ball. So, off to a residential home you go because
that is all social services can afford. No physiotherapy, no nursing or intensive support, but you can
smoke outside, if you can get out there, and you can have a television and radio. Resources don't stretch
to you having any privacy, so, you have to share all your ablutions and indignities in a room with a
complete stranger, amongst all these new complete strangers, in a place even farther away from your
family and your local authority, which can now wash its hands of you. Nobody wants to wash your hands
or cut your nails and who are they anyway? Your long-term memory recovers sufficiently to remind you,
you used to be a different person, so what the fuck happened to you? Naturally, you can't stand this
prison cell, but you overhear someone say they have no legal responsibility to lock you in, so in the
middle of the night, (when there's no one around that can drag you back), you trash the crap you've been
lumbered with and make your bid for freedom. Of course, since the physiotherapy stopped helping you
to your feet, you have to piss in the street from your chair, using your one good hand. This is indecent
exposure. And so the cycle of escape, recapture, sectioning, being banged up in a police cell, eventual
release and becoming an increasingly ungrateful burden on your hosts ensues.
Eventually, because you are regularly exposing yourself, you're now considered a danger to yourself and
others, they lock you away in a secure mental ward and take your cigarettes off you. If you behave
yourself like an unquestioning child, after a few months, maybe years, they might let you out into the
twenty-four foot by twenty-four foot, high-walled, plain courtyard, for a little fresh air and to walk around
in circles, since you are a circular peg in a square hole. You cannot smoke. It's in the hospital grounds. By
now, this whole process has stretched over five years and you live to stare up at a piece of sky between
blinded windows. You try distraction by getting high on anything you can, aftershave, cleaning fluids...
Coca cola. Coca cola is a godsend! You now live to drink cola, but it makes you irritable and energetic, so
you cannot have a bottle of coke a day, or even a can of coke a day. You are barred from any coca cola
intake and any caffeinated drink. You can self-harm but you mustn't be suicidal. That's why you also
cannot have a lethal weapon like a radio, television, tie, or shoelaces, but don't despair because they will
let your nails grow to three inches and your hair grow long enough for you to hang yourself, if gouging
your throat and wrists doesn't work. You have no reason to feel suicidal. You have no right to be angry
against all these professionals and expert strangers who are prepared to hold you illegally to fulfill their
'duty of care,’ or your new neighbours, who want a piece of you. So, you fight silently with yourself,
decaying tooth and curly nail, to not vent this to anyone, because you know you don't belong there.
You'd rather disappear and live in a tent in the middle of nowhere than be such a burden.
Don't give up though, because they have consulted all parties and done psychiatric assessments and they
agree you don't belong there. Your reactions are circumstantial, not mental, but if you kick off you'll
never get out. The only policy of integrity, protest and resentment you can adopt is silence. At last…
everybody else can relax.
Relief of all relief - an angel of mercy! One of your siblings, with experience in caring, is willing to uproot
from a different part of the same country to care for you at home, if the council will supply a suitable
accommodation near your family. Sorry… computer says no. The council cannot provide a home because
your relative comes from outside their jurisdiction. It matters not where you hale from.
Ah! No matter! The place you originally woke up in and became accustomed to and got to know the staff
and progressed rapidly at tells the present regime they never had a problem with you and would have
you back immediately. And there's a limited place available! What's more… it's cheaper than the care
you've been receiving since the ball was ping-ponged from the PCT to social services to another PCT!
Sorry… computer says no. Local social services still don't have to cough up the budget for that, so they
won't. The ball will have to be batted to the PCT who cut the funding in the first place. Robinson Crusoe
confined to a wheelchair without cigarettes, television or even a radio - you will stay for another few
years, while each successive PCT drops the ball and another picks it up.
With kind permission - a testament to the spirit of D.
If you are now thinking this is an extreme isolated case, you are mistaken. This occurred from a simple
traffic accident. Services intended to care have little or no incentive to pro-actively encourage recovery.
Policies, yes. Implementation will always be chopped off the end of a budget report and pro-active staff
penalised or sacked for defying management impositions.
In the UK, one of the most tolerant and 'progressive' first-world countries, it is recorded that one quarter
of its population suffer some form of serious depression. The reality is far worse. Every person living is
bound to suffer some mental difficulty, caused by all sorts of social, practical, environmental factors, or
unforeseen impositions. The moment anyone reports they are suffering some mental difficulty to
authorities charged with helping them understand and endure, at that moment, practically lose all the
rights they have been entitled to and treated by as a sane person. This is sometimes due to policy, but is
more likely due to inadequacy and institutionalised stigma that has been sustained and substantiated by a
flawed medical perspective towards mental difficulties, from its foundation, passed on to society through
its education and side-lining of these issues.
The MH industry from top to bottom now recognises its own failure and demise. So, where do the
solutions lie that will affect you and your loved ones? What rights should you insist on? What qualities
and mental capacity should you rely on? And what changes in outlook will help us keep perspective?