Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Hearing Voices at Mill View Hospital

Mill View Hospital, Hove
Pray for a friend of mine who has been sectioned. I've known this individual since about 2003. He is a baptised Catholic, despite being unable to drag himself away from the Book of Mormon and retains a stubborn refusal to worship on Sundays.

It turns out he has been there for about five weeks. Like I say, I've known him quite some time and I've often thought he needs proper 'care'. I don't know whether that is something given at Mill View Hospital. The staff seemed relatively indifferent to the patients all in all.

I went to visit him with a friend whose other friend was sectioned two weeks ago. It can't be pleasant being sectioned. When you walk into a mental hospital you imagine that through the opening of the doors, you'll be confronted by something out of a zombie film, or at best 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' but it really isn't that way. They all seem 'normal' people - whatever that is in the modern world. They're normal and of sound enough mind to say things like...

"It's terrible here. The staff don't care."

Yes, I know they are on medication and that 'helps' (to make things easier for the staff). My friend was sectioned having missed his 'depo' injection by a week or two. I am suspicious, but not 'paranoid' about mental health hospitals and even the medication. A little research on the net always reveals how many British Eugenics Society members went into mental health, obviously for 'rewarding careers' - if you enjoy sterilising and lobotomising the mentally ill. Much medication and injections given to schizophrenics co-incidentally makes them infertile or sterile. Because he has been so unwell for such a long time, I am also suspicious of motives for my friend's sudden sectioning. For example, I was told by another patient that my friend was 'in a really bad way' when he came to the hospital, but as long as I have known him he's been having conversations with Jim Morrison and the 'angel kingdom', spending his dole money on day one, leaving him skint for two weeks, hitting his own head in frustration at the voices he hears and developing a 'communicative relationship with my spit'. He is on a 'Section 3' which means he could be there until Christmas, perhaps beyond.

Brighton's most vulnerable are on an accommodation merry-go-round
Despite the severity of his schizophrenia, my friend is perfectly able to hold a 'normal' conversation. He always has done, despite the 'voices'. He can't look after himself, hears voices, takes drugs and doesn't come to Mass, but that really is nearly all of Brighton covered, isn't it?

He tells me how depressed he is, how even to have a cigarette, he has to go to the reception in the ward and ask a nurse to go outside with him to the garden to smoke. He's pale and withdrawn. He talks of his powerlessness in this situation:

"If I had committed a crime, or been sentenced to prison I would understand. Prison would be better than this, because at least then I would know what I have done wrong. Here, I have no freedom, my freedom has been taken from me. I don't understand."

So often, it seems, those professionals in the State's 'care' machine are unable to communicate effectively with those in 'their care'. There seems to be a lack of what Pope Francis calls 'dialogue' or a 'culture of encounter'. The staff are 'trained professionals'. It all seems like a job involving 'observation' and 'assessment' of the patients, but as in hospitals the 'bedside manner' seems to be lacking.

West Pier: Less 'project' and more dumping ground
Of course, I'll happily concede that my friend really does require proper 'care and support' with his condition - even a measure of 'supervision' - but the place is so depressing for him. All he has in his room is a blanket or two.

To add insult to the injury my friend feels (since whatever your condition and the treatment it requires it can never feel right or just to be held against your will in a mental hospital) he has been told that he will lose his flat before he is released and that he will be rehoused at 'West Pier Project', a 'temporary emergency accommodation' hostel in Hove, which is - helpfully for him - full of people with mental health problems, smack and crack addiction and alcohol issues. Nice, eh?  I believe this may well be accommodation owned by Baron Homes Corporation Ltd - Brighton's 'biggest property company'.

He's very confused and very depressed. I'm sure he'll have a simply splendid time in the largely unstaffed 'hostel' where tenants are known for injecting 'bath salts during deadly poke parties'. That was an article by an unscrupulous journalist, by the way.

Pray for my friend and pray too that you never fall into such dependence on the State that you are at its total mercy, since mercy isn't really its abiding quality. On whether he 'deserved' or 'needed' sectioning I'm content to defer to the judgment of trained professionals and experts, but whether my friend should become another victim of Brighton's absurd homeless hostels merry-go-round is another matter. More news on that subject to come in the next few days. It is a little scary to think how much power the State has over the individual in this country and a sobering thought that as society becomes more and more secular, the religious will be considered more different or 'insane' as time goes by.

"No pinky, don't do it!"..."Shut it, Rose!"
Meanwhile, I would really ask the question whether this art student could do with some time in a mental hospital himself - not because he is homosexual, but because he wants to lose his 'virginity' in front of a hundred strong art studio audience and then undergo a 'question and answer' session ("So how was that for you?") from the audience immediately afterwards. Welcome to the new age of 'normal'. It sounds like he needs help, but instead he gets headlines.

Oh and the revellers at Halloween, especially the 'zombies' - they're 'normal' too, aren't they? Despite their condition, which involves great suffering, schizophrenics I have met retain a great dignity, since they never choose the sorrowful and degrading experiences they regularly suffer. The same cannot be said for many in Brighton.