Misogyny and Victim Blaming By Kelly Grehan

I’m going to start with a question: why is the starting point for hearing about crimes in which victims are typically women to ask what she did wrong?

Disagree?

How many times upon hearing about a rape do people respond with questions like:

Well why did she get in his car?

Why did she drink so much?

Why was she dressed like that?

Why did she lead him on?

Why did she not run/scream/fight back?

How many people on hearing about domestic violence respond by saying:

Why did she not leave?

Why was she was always winding him up?

Why was she smiling if she was scared?

Why did she have a baby with him?

 I could go on.

There are numerous high profile cases I could use to illustrate this- Adam Johnson, Johnny Depp Mike Tyson, Bill Cosby, Rolf Harris. Men for whom, as soon as their crimes became known excuses and victim blaming began.

Of course people can cite ‘innocent until proven guilty’ as a reason, but my experience is that there is an approach taken by a large group of people upon hearing about these offences which differs from that they would take if hearing about a car theft, robbery or fraud.  

So why is this? Is it because of the misogyny which continues to plague our society? Or is it because by distancing themselves from certain behaviours people feel they can protect themselves from being a victim of such a crime?

Or is it because there is a collective failure in our community to want to accept the scale of violence against women in our society because to do so would mean admitting an unpalatable truth and would surely mean we need to address it?

Statistics show that the number of offences against women, including domestic abuse, rape and sexual assaults, rose by almost 10% to 117,568 in 2015-16.

Although men do suffer violence from women research shows that domestic violence is a deeply gendered issue for example Metropolitan Police statistics show that male violence against women made up 85% of reported domestic violence incidents and that 5% of domestic violence incidents were perpetrated by women in heterosexual relationships.

Staggeringly four times as many women as men are killed by a current or former partner.

Two women a week are killed as a result of domestic violence in England and Wales.

With regards to sexual violence approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year; that’s roughly 11 rapes (of adults alone) every hour.

These figures include assaults by penetration and attempts.

So 1 in 5 women aged 16 – 59 has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.

Roughly 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence.

3% of reported rapes are believed to be false.  

What we also know is that women who experience domestic, emotional and sexual violence experience guilt, denial, post traumatic stress and depression so a victim blaming culture is very damaging and can actually contribute towards reasons why women do not report or escape the situation.

I showed this blog to a friend who was a victim of long term emotional and domestic violence. This was her response:

Funny that thing about why didn’t she scream, why didn’t she fight back – I’d always thought I would fight back but logistically your size makes a big difference, fear is the biggest factor because I was too busy thinking how can I survive this and not make it worse than trying to fight. Self preservation kicks in and you try and survive. Who’s going to believe you when it’s your boyfriend and happened in your house/bedroom? You’ve got to live with him so you make it as easy as possible – enough people have said you should get out and should finish it. Now you’re embarrassed and hurt. It’s your kids birthday the next day or you’remeeting friends you can’t let down again. No one gets it so you just continue. Besides you have more placating to do and stories to cover so this doesn’t happen again.”

What I really want to do is to ask people to think about their reaction upon hearing of abuse against women and what the effects might be of that reaction.  

If you have been affected by any of these issues :

24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline 0808 2000 247

The National Rape Crisis Helpline 0808 802 9999
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What Happened When I Reported Rape in a Relationship By The Masked Avenger

Author Anonymous

When you make the first call, you are honestly at a point where you have nothing left to give.

For me there was no fear left when I reported my ex, I was nearly killed at his hands over an 18 month period so many times that I felt like it didn’t matter if he did kill me because he had tried to so many times that if he had as a result of me reporting him then at least I had tried to be free. 

For many out there in a relationship with an abuser the grooming lasts a long time , you can be belittled and made to believe it’s not rape. I did not consider I was being raped until the night I was attacked and fled to a friends house and then only when the police said they had charged him with rape did it even enter my mind. He made me believe I was frigid, a tease, or that I wanted it or even that I was in a relationship with him so I was obliged to have sex with him even if I was asleep or saying no. 

He was bailed but they managed to get him remanded.  It was so surreal,  I was now fitting in the box of a victim and I didn’t want to be that. I was emotionless, I could not cry for the want of trying. I could not face being undressed, I suffered vivid nightmares and flash backs … Years on they have settled but it still haunts me. 

The police I must praise for their hard work and support was brilliant although I know for some victims this is not the case.

I did have a victim support worker early on but for some reason they stopped contacting me and I wasn’t in a good place to reach out for support. 

Victim blaming is rife with rape. 

Even when it’s not rape in a relationship it goes on: 

Were you drunk ?

Were you dressed provocatively? 

Were you walking home alone in the dark? 

For rape in a relationship the questions are more direct: 

WHY DIDNT YOU LEAVE?

WHY DIDNT YOU RUN? 

WHY DIDNT YOU TELL SOMEONE? 

WHY DIDNT YOU FIGHT BACK? 

It should not be this way. To be brave enough to report rape is not easy and leaving an abuser is the riskiest time for the victim. I have only used the word victim because that is what you are classed as by the police. A victim of rape.
The jury sided with him despite a lot of evidence as defence was attacking me. The case lasted over two weeks . I didn’t go to the verdict because I was so exhausted . For the rest of the hearing I stayed at a friends house.

After the verdict the DC in charge of the case called me and told me he was acquitted. I crumbled to the floor. It was over, I gave everything I had to give and I had no fight in me. I wasn’t eating or sleeping or looking after myself days and the nights all merged into one. 
There was zero after care or support from any services. This is completely lacking, it was like all of a sudden it had ended and there was nothing more to do. Life for everyone moved on but really my life stopped that last day I spent in the court room wondering over and over again what I could have said or done differently.

I do not take on victim shaming. I have grown strong, through sheer grit and determination. I refuse to be a victim, but I’m not a survivor either. What happened to me happens to so many. The ‘rapes reported’ statistics have increased dramatically with the high profile celebrity cases of rape and grooming.

Conviction rates for rape are far lower than other crimes, with only 5.7% of reported rape cases ending in a conviction for the perpetrator. So is it any wonder that people don’t report rape seeing that statistic its so disgraceful. 

A jury has to be 99.9% sure of guilt or they have to aquit.

How many rapists are walking the streets?  It’s not the fault of the police.  The ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ ruling to sentencing means a jury has to be pretty certain it happened or they have to let them go. 

In 2015-16, police recorded 23,851 reports of adults being raped – nearly all of them women – compared with 10,160 in 2011-12. However rape convictions are still far lower then you would expect in recent years as low as just u dear 6% of reported rape cases ending in a conviction. 

There is nobody to blame but the ‘justice system’ and the rapists. 
We need to stand up to make a change for the people who come forward saying they have been raped. Better support and after care, not necessarily from the police,  but support services are crucial. Just having someone to talk to and be open with about how you are feeling about court and after the trial has finished, no matter the outcome could help people greatly in moving forwards. 

If you or someone you know has been raped and not reported it please seek the support to do so, although my trial ended with an acquittal I do not regret it

Slowly I am moving forward and I hope one day to be a part of the end to victim shaming for all.

If you or anyone you know has been affected by rape please and would like to find your nearest rape crisis centre please visit: https://rapecrisis.org.uk/centres.php
* Statistics provided by the Office of National Statistics

Tory Britain: A Modern Day Disaster Zone By Lisa Mulholland 

By Lisa Mulholland 

When I hear people use the phrase ‘emergency food parcels’ it conjures up images in my head of a a war torn country or perhaps a place where a huge scale disaster has hit. I think of a place which has no infrastructure to deal with the problem at hand.

I do not think of the United Kingdom and I certainly do not think of a hardworking nurse needing to use an emergency food parcel.  Yet surprisingly and shockingly it is what is happening. Right now. All around us.

1 million emergency food parcels were given out to families in the UK in 2016 according to the Trussell Trust.

I don’t know about you but before 2013 I had never heard of the term ‘foodbank’. But now it is a term that is quite commonplace.

What does it say about us as a society when people, both working and unemployed must go cap in hand to collect an emergency food parcel?

Recently the Red Cross was called in to support the NHS in what they called a ‘humanitarian crisis’. I found this difficult to believe until I recently had the misfortune of having to visit my local A and E department. There was a 7 hour wait and when I heard the staff call out via tannoy message “We are in crisis tonight please go home unless your injury is life threatening”. I could not believe my ears. 


As a nation, we used to send emergency food parcels to countries that didn’t have an infrastructure to support its most vulnerable in times of war, drought  or disaster.

In churches, schools and local supermarkets we used to do collections for them and I remember feeling fortunate that I lived in a society that, I believed, would never experience such poverty.

But all I see is now is collections for food banks and local communities.

So what has changed?

What went so drastically wrong?

We aren’t war torn, there has been no catastrophic event and there have been no natural disasters. So where is the mainstream media outcry?

There isn’t any. It has been normalised and we have become anaesthetised to it. 

In fact, the Conservative Party and the Mainstream Media would have us believe that our economy is doing just fine. That unemployment levels are at their lowest since 1972, according to the Office of National Statistics.

And that nothing has changed.

But it has.

And quite startlingly so. The decline has been rapid.

To my mind there has been one catalyst, that has set off a chain of very unfortunate events that has led us to the situation we are in today and that was when the Conservatives entered government in 2010.  

They did not arrive in a ‘landslide’ fashion.

There was no overwhelming support for them.

They slithered quietly into power on the back of a hung parliament and had to form an alliance with the Lib Dems just to form a legitimate government.

Yet the chain of events that they have set in place with crippling austerity, targeting the vulnerable, and the disabled has been so severe that the UN launched an investigation into it.

Yes we, the United Kingdom were not only investigated by the UN but our austerity policies were found to be in breach of international human rights laws.

Shameful, abhorrent, cruel. But again, where is the media outcry?

We now hear terms like ‘the working poor’ being used. A term I have not heard in my 38 years of life but that is now a widely understood term in our society.

And now according to a leading Professor (as quoted in the Evening Standard) life expectancy improvements have now started to slow down since the dreaded year of 2010.

The rise of homelessness has doubled from 2010 and that rise is not slowing down. The number of rough sleepers has sharply increased from just under 2000 in 2010 (when Conservatives came into power) to 4,136 this year.

An increase of 134%. 

If the Conservative Party could be compared to a natural disaster, I would say the one that resembles them the most is a tsunami.

They have hit us with wave after wave of bad decisions. And it feels like it is impossible to come up for air.

Just when good old Corbyn forced a U turn on child tax credit cuts, or when the plan for all school to be academies was overturned, every victory has been minimised by the mainstream media while at the same time we are hit in the the face with some other nasty Tory policy proposal.

And that is how it has gone on.

With each fight against some awful decision; some awful cut they try to impose, they simultaneously hit us with another.

How can you come up with air when the waves of cruelty keep coming?

I feel like we are living in our very own disaster movie. You know the one where all the experts like the meteorologists warn of impending doom but no one listens until it is too late.

I feel that’s where we have been with this Conservative government.

In our case we had the economic experts warning us about Brexit. We had the small independent newspapers telling us how austerity would cause poverty. But then you had politicians like Gove putting down the experts with his famous quote last year when he said, “The people of this country are sick of experts”.

No one listened and now look.  

Most disaster movies have a happy ending. So what do we do?

Do we sit and wait for the happy ending to just arrive itself?

I certainly won’t wait. I will keep writing, blogging, petitioning and campaigning until everyone gets the message. And I urge you all to do the same.

The Conservatives don’t care about you or I (unless you are a millionaire).

They never have and they never will .

So if we want our happy ending we need to fight for it in any way, possible.  And soon!

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Sources

The Trussell Trust

Staying ‘Well’ : 8 Tips to Maintaining Mental Wellness By Rachael Lamb

By Rachael Lamb

This isn’t the be all and end all of staying well as I know different things work for different people and also what works for you sometimes may not at others so do go back to things you have tried before even if it didn’t help in other times because every day, every situation is different. 

First I would just like to say that I am mentally ill,  I have had therapies, counselling , lots of medications, hospital stays and so much discrimination because of this. Over the years I have struggled with suicidal thoughts, self harm , anxiety and PTSD and I have found over this time some things that help me also help others. 

Two years ago,  I was talking with my peer support worker and she mentioned needing ideas for a new occupational therapy group, so I sat and reeled off some ideas; she wrote them down and a week or so later rang and said she had some other ideas from another service user and our ideas were going to make a group which would run for 12 weeks via the mental health team and I was asked to help facilitate this. I felt like finally something good had come of my struggles.

The group ran and it was so popular than have run it 3 times a year since and are also sharing the 12 week group on a website for professionals in the UK so they too can run the groups.



Everything is low cost / free . I will gladly share details on a separate  blog but for now I wanted you to know a bit of my background and ideas for mental health. 

Anyway here are some tips I have found help me to stay ‘well’

1. Have a daily planner
  

If you are really struggling to prompt yourself to do even the minimum of tasks like self care, taking  meds , washing , eating etc , you can buy a planner to put on the wall.

Fill it leaving slots so its not overwhelming. Once you get into the routine of doing the self care stuff you can add other things like going for a walk or gardening or something you enjoy or will get you out of the house. I have a weekly planner now as my days are going OK so I have not been using it but if I feel myself sliding I will write up what I’m doing for the week and I consult it in the mornings it helps to ease stress and anxiety.


 

2. The out and about bag  

I use a zip up bag for inside my bag which is my go to area for when I’m out and about, I use the bus a lot so having things to help calm me or keep me from fidgeting and getting over anxious helps.

I have the following below in my bag, but you can put in anything you think would help you while out and about, or even have it in your living room or bedroom though I have a bigger selection of things for use in situations at home where I am anxious.

  • Hair clip to open and shut so simple but the motions helps
  • Roll on perfume , the scent helps me to concentrate on the here and now of I find myself getting distracted in a day dream 
  • Fiddle toys, there are lots on the market and I find the cube one helps me to relax and stop my hands shaking
  • Lavender balm, lavender is known for its relaxing scent.
  • Lip balm , dry lips are the worst when anxious 
  • Boiled sweets/mints to ease dry mouth
  • Little charms  that I have been given , these remind me of happy memories 
  • Hair brush and hairbands , I sweat a lot due to anxiety and there’s nothing worse than a hairband breaking so knowing I have spares and a brush to sort out my sweaty hair helps
  • Mobile phone emergency charger , I use my phone all the time when out and it helps to know my battery can be charged when needed. I have apps and the radio which help a lot.
  • Bach’s rescue remedy drops , I’m not sure if they really help but I use them sometimes
  • Promethazine ( I am prescribed this and can take it throughout the day if needed) 
  • Pen and small note pad, so I can doodle or write when needed
  • Shiny stones , because they look pretty and are smooth its a great sensory tool.

3. Find a group

Even if it is online where you can talk to others going through similar things and it is good to help others and also talk to others when you aren’t feeling so great.

4. Have a bath or shower 

I know we can get dictated to by mental health professionals to keep doing the basics but I struggled for a long time to have a bath and relax , now I found some lovely bath products and candles can really help if I’m stressed out . 

5. Try and go for a walk

Even if it is a short 5/10 minute walk each day , I used to roll my eyes and say whatever but even a short time outside can break a bad mood and help move the day forwards.



6. Try and eat 

I’m not going to say eat healthy eat your five a day but it is important that you eat ( or drink) at low points I made sure I had lots of smoothies in so I was getting some goodness , when you are on medication it is key to having something in your stomach. 

Eat little and often if you can’t face or prepare a meal. Toast , porridge, yoghurt etc , make a snack plate and includestgubgs that you fancy to encourage yourself.

Never say no to treats!

7. Engage with support 

Whether you can’t reach for the support of mental health teams or you find that you don’t get listened to, even if you have a good friend, they will listen or help you keep distracted go out for coffee/tea and relax. 

I must say at this point if you do have a named care co ordinator or mental health nurse do ask for another if you don’t feel they are helping or don’t understand you. If your relationship with them is not a good one at the times to need to speak to someone you are more unlikely to call if you don’t get on well.

 I had to do this myself recently and although it made my anxiety increase it has worked out better for me in the long run as I now have a care co ordinator who listens


8. Connect with free services who have trained volunteers. 

I stumbled upon a web service chat with trained volunteers called mental health matters. 
http://www.mentalhealthmatters.com/our-services/helpline-services/time-online/

They operate an online chat usually after the telephone line has finished late at night usually around 10.30/11pm. I found talking online really helped. Sometimes I just could not verbally get the words out and would seek support and guidance and they gave me the courage I needed when I really needed to get help.

You are never truly alone

Mental health lies to you to isolate you and it can consume you but by following your own path you can be well. It’s not a recovery , I don’t think you ever truly are recovered from mental illness but that as in life you have the ups and downs the highs and lows. 

Never be ashamed of being you, you are beautiful.



** If you need to seek support in a crisis please try and reach out. **

You can call the Samaritans just to chat, you do not have to be suicidal you can just need someone to listen and vent to and it’s completely confidential.
The number is 116 123 or you can email jo@samaritans.org although a reply may take a little while.

Family Life: The Biggest Casualty of Modern UK Culture By Kelly Grehan

By Kelly Grehan

 

Barely a day goes by without me hearing some mention of Britishness and British values. There seems to be an acceptance by some that Britain is the envy of the world. I have never been sure what this is based on.

What sums up modern British life? What are the central focuses of our culture? I’d argue money, work and the pursuit of status are what our daily lives and almost all of our time are filled with.  

I visited Holland this summer and could not help but notice how much more relaxed the Dutch way of life seems to be as oppposed to here, where many of us feel our days are about trying to cram in as much as possible. The expectation is to be a conscientious employee, always on time, never be unreliable, strive to climb the career ladder at the same time as being an involved parent, never missing a school play or sports match. keep a perfect house and helping with homework and all manner of other things. But although we might not like to admit it, our value base in this country is about putting money ahead of family life and happiness. 

We are preached to that our status is based upon our (material) assets, people seem to long to tell you how much their car/holiday/phone/home cost, and expect you to be impressed.  

There often appears to be a badge of honour in how many hours you work over what you are contracted; almost as if the company might collapse without us and many of us are forced to waste hours every week sitting in traffic jams or awaiting delayed trains as we commute to jobs far from our homes. Rising costs of living and stagnant wages leave many of us feeling stressed about making ends meet.     

But does it have to be like this? I’d argue not and that the way of life we have here can be changed. Denmark and Norway won the first and second places in this year’s World Happiness Report.  

What’s different about them? Well, both Denmark and Norways’ cultures prioritise experiences over material goods and strive for equality. They have relatively small wealth gaps and friendships are seen as a value. Both nations cherish sharing activities with friends and family.

In the Norwegian language there is even a word for helping each other without being paid;  ‘dugnad’. 

Occasions where everyone contributes their time and skills for the good of the neighbourhood is seen as vital for the good of all. Similarly, Danes might pay extortionate amounts in tax, but this has given them a sense of cohesion; everyone having a stake and everyone getting something back. Unlike here where post compulsory education without being linked to career aspirations is regarded as an extravagance, most Danes take weekly evening classes, all free at the point of receiving them. How many of our lives would be enriched if that were the case here?

One reason people in Denmark have time for enrichment is that they simply do not work the hours we do. The average working week in the UK is now 43.6 hours compared with a European average of 40.3 hours. Danish workers work an average of 26 hours and Norwegians 33.  

One of the sad things about our culture, in my view, is the failure of us as a society to put family life first and the impact it has our children.  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) last year conducted a study of children across 44 countries. The results made for grim reading, It found Britain’s 15-year-olds are suffering due to ‘pressure at school, feeling fat and drinking too much.’ They were less likely to report ‘good life satisfaction’ than their foreign counterparts.  

73% of girls and 52% of boys in England felt pressured by school work, significantly higher than the average of 51% of girls and 39% of boys across all countries. 

While 50% of girls and 25% of boys in England think they are too fat, higher than the average 43% for girls and 22% for boys across all countries.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers have consistently argued that the mental health of children as young as six is being blighted by exam stress. We have increasing numbers of young people self harming and suffering from anxiety and stress. Although there are many reasons for this, I would argue the culture in this country which judges everyone, regardless of age on their possessions and status is at least partly to blame. Children are judged on their test scores, their school’s place in the league tables, their clothes, their family status, where they live and all manner of other things that should not be important. So, it is no wonder, like British adults, so many children cannot escape the feeling they are not good enough.

What about if Britain had a culture where employers encouraged and helped promote family life and other activities? What about if when meeting people for the first time we asked people about their hobbies and interests instead of where they live and what we do for a living? 


What about if spending time doing community based activities was the norm? What about if we judged each other by our actions and nothing else – not appearance or status or possessions?

I think we would all be much happier. Isn’t that what we should strive for as a culture rather than the best GDP or the most millionaires?  

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Mental Health ‘Care’ is Not What you Might Expect By The Masked Avenger Anonymous 

Author Anonymous

* Please note trigger warning ( suicide) *


I’ve been detained under the MHA (Mental Health Act) twice within the last two years. I will describe my own experience of my last admission. 


I have 3 mental health diagnosis, an eating disorder in which I have a lot of fear foods plus an allergy to wheat and gluten, I have PTSD for which I can be triggered and recurrent depressive disorder. The latter means that my mental health fluctuates in waves going from a flat enjoying nothing mode in which I manage to function and maintain normal acts of daily living such as getting up and out of bed, washing and dressing and eating the foods I will eat. 

I have a fear of phones but keep in touch with my 2 friends and 2 of my children by text and I will talk to my GP on the phone.

 
In the low periods despite attempts to change I can’t gather the energy to get out of bed apart from loo trips. I don’t wash or dress, my eating varies and I withdraw from the world and push people away. I spend most of my awake hours crying, and honing down my suicide plan to the final piece as I lose all hope that I’ll ever get better and the emotional pain is so intense I’m unable to cope with it. 

On this occasion my care coordinator had visited me and said that she would be requesting a MHA assessment and left the house. I paced around crying having found my first hospital admission awful and not wanting to go again. I wanted to take my overdose to end my life but thought the MHA crew would appear and save me and I didn’t want to be saved.

Eventually at 8pm, eight hours after my care coordinator had left, I managed to phone the out of hours team to find out what was going on and I was informed that the MHA assessment was booked for 10am the following morning. With this information I believed I had the time needed to end my life and took most of the tablets in my bedside drawer. A mixed overdose of about 8 drugs but including tricyclic drugs I’d previously stored at a time I was prescribed them. 

I lay on the bed fully clothed in clothes I’d been in 24/7 for several days. I didn’t expect to wake up. I remember nothing from that moment to waking on a ward in the medical hospital. 

It transpired that the 2 doctors and AMHP had arrived and not being able to obtain entry asked a neighbour (who has been nasty to me since I moved here so I avoid him) to climb in my bedroom windows and let them in. They couldn’t rouse me so I was taken to hospital where I woke later. It was a couple of months before discovering my neighbour had been in my bedroom and was aware as he gleefully told my daughter about it. 

What happened after…

So the MHA assessment took place in the medical hospital at 2am the morning after I was found and I was detained under section 2. I remained in this hospital for a further 36 hours as there were no beds. My bed was an observation bay right by the nurses station, the lights were on full there all night but I wasn’t allowed to draw the curtains for shade so I could sleep so I didn’t manage to sleep at all in that light. 

I was then transferred to the psychiatric hospital acute ward and shown my room. There I stayed in bed, still fully clothed completely covered in a sheet apart from loo trips for over a week. I cried the whole time and if I slept during the night I don’t remember it. I was aware of every hourly check from staff looking through the bedroom door all day and all night. 

Once or twice people put a plate of food on the bedside table and left it there but the food was all my fear foods as was everything in the canteen so I ate practically nothing during my whole stay. 



After a week and a bit I asked whether it would be possible to be taken home to collect some clothes as I’d been wearing the outfit I’d been detained in day and night since. I asked every day but was told there were no available staff to do so. On day 12 I went to the ward manager’s office and said how long I’d been in my clothes and how I needed things from home. Within an hour a member of staff took me and I collected night clothes, another outfit and toiletries. After this time I started to go into the lounge occasionally but was frightened of 3 ladies on the ward, 2 of which had major anger problems and 1 was extremely unwell and very unpredictable.

One of the ladies with anger issues later told me she didn’t want to be discharged as her partner was violent and she had nowhere else to live so every time discharge was talked about, she’d deliberately kick off meaning her discharge was delayed. She assured me she’d be there months. 

The canteen was terrifying for me. I’m frightened of men and the dining room was shared with the male ward. Many of the men behaved badly making obscene suggestions as well as throwing chairs etc. 

There was no food I could eat anyway so sometimes I’d grab a banana from the fruit bowl and immediately go back to the ladies ward. This satisfied the staff I was eating and the staff in the dining room could tick me off their list. Sometimes I’d take a bite of the banana but usually didn’t and would bury it under paper towels in the bin back on the ward.  
One teenager cut herself so badly during the night she was whisked off with the 2 qualified members of staff to A&E in the adjacent hospital. They never returned so no one could have medication and the following day the consultant was at the main hospital too. The teenager never returned, I’ve no idea if she survived. The things from her room were bagged up and taken away from the ward. 

Apart from a mindfulness session every weekday morning nothing else was on offer. I didn’t go to the sessions due to fear of the men but I have done mindfulness to death in the community and despite hours and hours of practice find it never helps me at all. But for some reason mental health professionals think it cures all psychiatric ills and it’s the only therapy I’ve been offered in the community in my 7 years with them. 



During my weeks on the ward I only ever saw one qualified nurse in the lounge, sitting and talking to patients. She’d bring her laptop in to write up her notes on Rio but would talk to patients alongside this. She was really nice, I’ve heard she’s left now which is sad. The only times I saw qualified staff was at the hatch to the medicine room as they dished out tablets. Apart from those times they stayed in the ward office and we never saw them. I had a named nurse who I never met. 

There were 2 or 3 health care assistants who were visible and about the ward, they were all male but we’re quiet and calm so I was able to cope with them with no problems at all and one in particular was kind. 

I was discharged feeling no better. At home my dining table was covered in piles of thing labelled with who they were to go to, and 3 envelopes containing letter to my children. 

On my discharge notes it said I’d spent the first 10 days asleep in bed!! So all those days I’d cried day and night barely catching snatches of sleep, I was apparently asleep the whole time. 

The thing is no one ever talks to you or asks you anything so they guess and assume and that’s the basis of their paperwork. My diagnosis was even better, it was factitious disorder which totally shocked me once I’d looked it up. Fortunately both the community CMHT (Community Mental Health Team) and my GP said that was total rubbish. CMHT told me that hospital consultant is renowned for his bizarre and incorrect diagnosis. Useful. Not. The only thing that kept me sane there was my weekly phone call from my GP. She’d listen to what was happening, how I was feeling and what was being said and she’d spend 30-45 minutes helping me make sense of it all and help me see things from a different perspective. Ironic really that the only helpful member of staff during my time there was my GP back at my surgery! To me that ward is nothing but a holding cell. 

Therapy would be good as would be some interaction with qualified staff or your named nurses. And it seems when someone is detained and needs a bed, the patient on the ward they deem to be the least risk is immediately discharged, better or not, to make room for the new arrival. Because I was quiet and not disruptive, that was me.

I hope one day that I’ll be offered some therapy from the community team. But I’ve asked for CBT or a psychological assessment several times and the answer has always been no. I want to leave CMHT as I’ve found little helpful and they’re not proactive but my GP encourages me to stay with them because with my recurrent depressive disorder I get low, and when I get low I get very very low and lose all hope. But I have no intention of going back into that hospital again, no help is available there and the diagnosis you come out with is fictitious in itself.

This was written for you by a Masked Avenger. A Masked Avenger could be any one of our regular writers, a group of writers or a guest writer. Written to bring you uninhibited truths that need to be told.

If you would like to submit an article to the Masked Avenger please email us at: the-avenger1@hotmail.com

The Avenger Review: Harry Leslie Smith ‘Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future’

By Kelly Grehan
 

In 2013 Harry Leslie Smith was an unassuming 91 year old Yorkshireman when he wrote an article for the Guardian called ‘This Year I Shall Wear A Poppy For The Last Time.’ This was shared 60,000 times. He was then asked to speak at the Labour Party Conference and wrote two books: ‘Harry’s Last Stand’ and ‘Love Among The Ruins’. He now has a massive twitter following and runs a weekly podcast and speaks at events all over the country.

 

Now age 95 Harry has published his third book, described as a ‘call to arms’ called ‘Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future.’

 

The book starts with Harry reflecting upon his feelings of disappointment and fear of what lay ahead on the night of the Conservative election victory in 2015. It then compares Harry’s miserable experiences growing up in absolute poverty with those in similar positions today.  

 

Throughout, Harry uses facts and statistics to make his point, for example when discussing his brutal experiences of a childhood spent in transit from one set of poor accommodation to another even poorer one he points out that the use of private rental accommodation has risen by 50% since 2002 and that this, along with rent rises has doomed many children to repeating his own fate. He expresses his pain at the fate of old age being to see ‘society gravitate back to the past.’

 

Harry shows great shrewdness in recognising the causes that allowed fascism to spread during his youth and how some many of the same courses have led to a climate where Brexit and Donald Trump have gained power and that these, in turn are a threat to our core belief systems, with ‘compassion and decency’ now at risk.  

 

He (controversially) makes the point that ‘perhaps it is the young today that have wisdom because they are learning to live with the selfishness of the baby boomer generation that helped create neo-liberalism and made it fashionable to disparage the welfare state while enjoying all its benefits.’

 

Speaking of the aims of society, Harry says ‘Our thirst to do good things like find a cure for cancer and our hunger to do harm to others like selling weapons to Saudi Arabia astonish me.’

 

Despite his age, or maybe because of it, Harry has lost none of his enthusiasm in the belief in a better world or the belief that people, especially young people deserve better. He speaks of the injustice that a child’s economic place at birth determines so much of what they are or are not entitled to.  

 

One of the most poignant parts of the book for me are Harry’s recollections of the humiliation which comes with poverty – both for adults and children. The stigma of poverty leads to negative self image and self blame. Reading this I could not help but picture those families reliant on food banks and the message we, as a society are sending those reliant on charity for food, about their worth,  

 

With so few of those from the Second World War now left to share their experiences of life prior to the Welfare State and the NHS, it can sometimes feel like ancient history and that we are safe from the issues that pained that period. But of course, by comparing modern issues- poverty, poor housing, a rise in fascism, no refuge from domestic abuse, unaffordable health care – Harry shows that they battles won in 1945 need fighting once again.  

 

Seeing Harry’s strength in fighting against the ills of the government at his advanced years is truly inspirational. I hope reading this book encourages more people to leave their complacency behind and fight for a better, more just society as Harry and his comrades did in 1945.  

 

The great thing about Harry’s writing is it speaks across generations. I’ll be buying copies for my Grandad and my friend’s 16 year old for Christmas.  

 

Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future by Harry Leslie Smith is available to buy now.