* 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.
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