How did you first come to the attention of mental health services?
In 2000 I went to hospital after attempting suicide not long after my mother passed away, aged 48. I had also not long split up with my girlfriend of four years and was really down in every way. I decided to visit a casino in Birmingham which I was a member of but hardly frequented, lost about £1000 on gambling, bought a few bottles of JD and some pain killers, went home and attempted the deed. I was only found because when i arrived home, I had left my front door wide open and the couple next door had called the Police as they had thought I’d been broken into.
Was your first hospital admission a shocking experience?
Hell yeah! I woke up on the first night to a woman running up and down the wing on fire, screaming like a Banshee. I thought I was tripping and went back to sleep. It wasn’t until the next day when the other residents were talking about it that I realised that it wasn’t bad drugs…
How did the medication make you feel?
Medication wise, it was always a struggle. Just when i thought I’d found the cure, the side effects would kick in, sometimes making it physically impossible to take them. My first prescribed meds had me trying to iron clothes with the kettle.
What do you think of the public perception of mental illness? Is there a stigma attached?
I have always been very, very open with my illness which has left me open to certain folks taking advantage or ridiculing me. Worse than that are the folks that try and help but the minute something goes wrong in some way, blame it on me because it must be my fault…
How have you built your life back together away from the mental health system?Apart from a few times when I was addicted to drugs (my way of self medicating at the time), I have very little to do with services.
What are your coping strategies?
Just try and live each day as it comes
What improvements would you like to see in the field of mental health?
Actually care and when you’re having an ‘off’ day and this goes to friends and family of all sufferers, stop asking if we’ve taken our meds. We can be pissed off to you know.
Do you believe that mental illness is incurable and will last for life?
Unfortunately, yes. i think it’s going to get a whole lot worse in terms of numbers too…
[Here is a post by our first international guest poster. Leoned is from the former Soviet Union and has sent us this about his mental health experiences. End Of Terror is a worldwide struggle and campaign for better rights for mental patients, wherever you may be in the world. ENJOY! Wez G, End Of Terror]
… One night I was awakened by the noise. Opening my eyes, I saw how two nurses are beating the boy, who lies at the window. The boy was trembling. « “Again Vovka has epileptic seizure», – someone said . “How epileptic seizure?!” – I blurted out: “But why to beat ?!” Then the nurse left Vovka for a second and turned to me: Shut up, otherwise, and you will be bad”. That nightly incident was bothering me for long time. I hoped, that gits will be punished. But all gone, as if nothing had happened.
… Once, one nurse pegged me in punishment for disobedience. And did it in a special way: the hands were were fixed to the metal corners of the bed. She had said, that she’ll unbind me, when I’ll ask forgiveness and went away. The circulation was disrupted , the hands swollen. Endure was becoming increasingly difficult. Nurse had entered in the ward and asked, I am going to ask forgivness or not. I hadn’t answer and she left.
The matter was already nearing to an evening. Soon the night shift had to come . I was very hoping, what this damned wretch will go, and the other nurse will unbind me.
However, it soon became clear, that the damned wretch stays on the night shift. She had come into the room and announced by triumphant tone: «Well, do you intend to ask forgiveness?» I wasn’t able to endure anymore and asked forgiveness from this crud as she had wanted. After that I was feeling myself horribly
They constantly indoctrinated us, that at any rate everything will be as they want. Any meanness, any overwhelming nightmare – everything will be as they want.
There was a teenage boy. He was suffering a severe form of epilepsy with mental retardation and was very irritable. The bastards were using this. They were provoking him intentionally and when he had come into anger – they attacked him from all sides and commited reprisal. In the time of the reprisal, when he was already tied, one nurse had gripped his genitals and furiously jerked. That nightmare still causes me stupor.
In general, intimate dignity was the subject of their special, sophisticated hostility. We were all Bug and cows, devil knows that have grown in us. It is terrible how our balls hindered them . The desire to tear off this” surplus ” again and again flied from their trashy sip. And some ones organized games such violence – chased the children and pulled their genitals and this wild nightmare took place quite openly, in front of everyone.
But the most terrible thing was chlorpromazine. The terrible effect can not be described. In what satanic laboratories was prepared this drug!? It was destroying the thinnest, most intimate strings of essence. Its action caused a complete rejection reaction. Every cell, every nerve were screaming with outrage. As long as overwhelming effect of chlorpromazine was manifesting, this reaction was completely suppressed. But as soon as this action is being weakened, the whole being is being filled with rage. But they were continuing to do chlorpromazine else and else.
There was one nurse, very greedy and cynical. She was often substituting others and was on duty multiple shifts in a row. And in order that the duty roster would pass quietly she was doing chlorpromazine to all. She was getting this with different ways. At the beginning with help on duty doctors. There were a lot of young doctors. Basically women. With them she was in familiarly relationships. She was calling a doctor by phone, a doctor was coming and appointing chlorpromazine, even not seeing for whom she appoints. Then they ceased trouble oneself to arrive. They were assigning by a phone. Then and this turned out to be unnecessary. The nurse herself was doing chlorpromazine, and the appoint was being done after, backdating. Then others followed her example .
And no salvation from this destruction remained. I was then completely destroyed! Physically and spiritually. The mind found itself in a state of complete prostration. I lost the ability to feel, resent and somehow to react. In this condition I was discharged home.
After some time, snippets of feelings began to erupt. Firstly the earlier depressed rage as a reaction on the influence of chlorpromazine. Gradually the awareness of what happened filled me. Experiences, that i endured, atrocity, vile, impunity were overflowing me. Precious moments of life, youth sped by. I was biting my lips from despair and was able to change nothing. I was dreaming about a retribution for the bastards. But they were far and i was not be able to do anything against them. And then all of uncontrollable pain fall at the man who was next. – On my poor mother. The dearest person in the world. Who gave me whole life without residue.
When I hit her all yelled in me: «What am I doing?!» And I felt, what i do not govern yourself. And i again was there.
… Again violence, merciless cynicism. Again boorish edification, that everything will be as they want. All they want, they will do – no one is decree for them . Yes, there was no hands on them. Abomination predetermine everything! Unlimited possibilities of absolute nothingness.
I could neither tolerate them, nor resist them! And again they were grinding me and scraping me with chlorpromazine. Until they destroyed all flesh and bone, every nerve, every cell. Human nature did not presuppose such exposure and did not envisage any protection against it. A human must not survive such ruinous exposure. So ruinous effects ssence not should survive.
He must die before going to happen like that. But the sadistic action of chlorpromazine overcame this last protective edge. And destroys not only the essence of life, but also the ability to die.
And I did not die then only by this terrible reason.
The authorities – local mental health workers and Gwent Police – are not happy with End Of Terror exposing their misdeeds. When I first started the website there was an immediate clampdown and I was ushered off into the Mental Health system. I later understood why my then Doctor, Dr Darryl Watts, was unhappy about being published on the internet as he had been convicted of child sex offences. It is convenient for the authorities to mask their repression and cover up End Of Terror. I think it important though, to expose this hidden system to the world and I certainly, over the years, have taken much refuge in the fact that End of Terror exists. It is a crutch of support to me.
2015 was a horrific year for me. I was taken into the hospital on no fewer than four occasions. It took me out of my undergraduate university studies at Cardiff University and set my life back again. After nineteen years in the mental health system it came as no real shock and i am used to dealing with the State disrupting my life. It is an asset to be resilient and to forge on with life plans in spite of the constant mental health harassment and its infringement upon my liberty.
During the last hospitalisation I was detained from July 2015 through to November. I was sat at home, minding my own business, doing work on the internet for my music business and out of the blue Dr Basu turned up with the police and a magistrate-signed warrant to remove me for assessment. I had done nothing whatsoever and was just carted off and incarcerated. Basu proceeded to give me the maximum dose of CloPixol Depot injection, something to which it has been proved I am allergic to. I had two stints on the secure PICU (Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit) Beechwood, St. Cadoc’s, Caerleon, for dissent on Talygarn Ward, Griffithstown County Hospital, Pontypool, where I was detained for the bulk of my stay.
My notoriety as a patient precedes me on Talygarn and on the ward I have some formidable enemies, usually within the nurse management structure. People who are constantly vying for their own selfish climb up the ladder whose disdain for patients is most cruel. I name Keith Sullivan, deputy ward manager, Jayne Hughes, former ward manager and Paul Hanna, Deputy Nurse Manager, to be among the most appalling of these ladder-climbing despots. They spend their days in a twisted Machiavellian power struggle, never hesitating to have a pop at patients using any means at their disposal to make their victims’ stays in hospital less comfortable. They are the antithesis of good nursing and miss the fundamental point that they are there to serve the patients’ needs. These are the prison warders whose radical oppression of patients and their rights truly epitomise the struggle within mental hospitals – the very examples of why there is such a divide between staff and patients.
One of the scariest movements within mental health hospitals is the inevitable ban they seek to impose on smoking. Anti-smoking lobbies have successfully campaigned across the board of the NHS for smoking to be restricted. Due to the enforced nature of sectioning, where patients are detained against their consent, smoking is still, on the whole, allowed inside mental hospitals. Smoking is one of the few things you can actually do to while away your time and most mental patients are heavy smokers. It upset me to see during my stay on Talygarn, that the inside smoking room had been closed and patients had been relegated to the garden area. It is one step closer to the achieved goal of a complete ban. Lighters were confiscated and the nurses had to be called to light your cigarette. This is one undignified way of removing patient’s human rights, but not the major subject of this article. I dread to think what it will be like in the future to be detained and forced to quit smoking instantly. There will be uproar within the services and most patients will struggle to come to terms with the ban.
Since the advent of mobile phones, patients have found new ways of staying in touch with the outside world during their incarceration. Although some parts of the system do deny access to mobiles eg.PICU, most acute wards allow patients to use their phones, although they often confiscate them at night and refuse patients the use of their chargers. This leads to a clandestine smuggling operation for patients whereby contraband chargers exchange hands on the ward so that everyone can top up their battery. Nurses spend their days lighting cigarettes and searching bedrooms for hidden mobile phone chargers – hardly constructive medical care?
Smart phones with internet are especially useful and to maintain social media accounts and have internet access is a godsend, especially to me. I have been able to update my EndOfTerror from within the confines of the establishment and being able to reach out to followers gives a certain empowerment. Being locked away from society is lonely and frustrating and although not freedom, internet access allows a certain maintenance of your outside life. Messages of encouragement from friends and family are invaluable to your disrupted mindset and as a patient the therapeutic value of support on the outside is immeasurable.
Resisting as ever, during my stay, I was actively tweeting on the @endofterror timeline. It’s rather difficult to do full blog posts from a mobile phone and tweeting is a handy alternative, even if the tweets just serve as a personal reminder of incidents once one gets back to the outside world. I regularly study social media activity of mental patients during detainment through online mental patient friends and although often disturbing in content I know that I am not alone in seeking solace through social media use during a section. Each individual has their own methods of reaching out.
The Indian Dr Basu and his underling, the Iranian Dr Al-Hasani, were being particularly virulent in their disdainful treatment of me. They simply failed to recognise me as a human being with human rights and used the treatment against consent to the maximum. They frustrated me by denying me any leave at all and I was forced to resort to criticising their actions on twitter. They were both monitoring my twitter use and the End Of Terror website and threatened me saying that I was not allowed to post anything about them or their names. This infringes upon my freedom of speech and expression and I simply refuse to bow down to fascism and change my policies of exposing the fault-lines of the mental health system. Prior to hospitalisation Dr Basu had been stalking me online and although he denies this, I caught him, through analytic software, studying my Linkedin and invading my personal space on the web. This adds to my conspiracy theory of how the actions of psychiatrists are preordained and not rooted in healthcare. My enemies will pursue me despite me having good health. The voice of dissent will be punished by the system and EndOFTerror is a nightmare scenario for my pursuers.
I started using the smartphone camera to take some visual images of the hospital surroundings. Most people fortunately never get to view the bare oppressive inside walls of a psychiatric hospital so it helps in exposing the realities inside. One night in the smoking area, where we were jovially listening to some music, I took a photo of some fellow patients, with, of course, their permission. I posted this photo on my personal networks (not end of terror). The psychiatric nurses and doctors who were glued to my social networks, looking for an excuse to pounce, did just this. They cited privacy rules and said that I had broken confidentiality rules and mobile phone policies and they confiscated my Iphone. I was up in arms. I said I would delete the offending photo but could not see what harm I had done. In the real world I am always updating my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with all my escapades. Why should this be any different during a stay in hospital?
After many complaints the nurses came to a compromise and returned the mobile phone but they decided to do this with a twist and use an experimental policy. This experiment was horrendous to me and signified the extreme measures of state repression that little Hitlers within mental health services are prepared to use. I was allowed ten minutes of access to my mobile phone per shift and this access was to be supervised by a nurse. They wanted the inner workings of End Of Terror and were prepared to intimidate me into revealing my personal use of the internet. Nurses were quite uncomfortable with doing this and many expressed this to me. However, there are nurses who just relish the sort of power this experiment brings and jump at the chance of subverting patients’ rights. I found that my internet use was to be closely scrutinised and used in ways to justify my mental illness. Everything I did online found its way into my notes and was judged as mental illness. It’s just a total invasion of privacy and when you hear about internet repression in far off places such as China, to see this obsessive monitoring occurring in the UK just proved to me the State’s obsessiveness with surveillance.
Pretty soon, the ban on my phone use became compounded. I am a translation student at Cardiff University and use social media and the internet to maintain contact with a host of international friends and business associates across the world. The nurses started to complain as they could not understand my social media messages when I spoke in a foreign language. Therefore I was banned from speaking foreign languages and banned from internet contact with anyone outside of the UK. It is bad enough being prevented from studying your Translation degree, being forced to mss key lectures and examinations while you are subjected to the human experimentation of mental health. These authorities were now dictating to me that use of foreign language was a mental illness. I was being treated for my education skills and prevented in every way possible of exercising my study mindset. I found this to be ignorant, racist and typical of a stupid mentality. Why should my ways be changed to suit my captors?
Is it mentally ill and evil to contact people in the outside world and to use foreign languages? I was disappointed with the recent Brexit vote that demonstrated a democratic dislike for the EU and its foreign characteristics yet inside the mental hospital I witnessed some of the sickness of the system and how ignorant people could be. Right wing tendencies and oppression are key to the success of the mental health movement and where people have the right to exercise their power, I feel they often abuse this power, typical of the little Hitlers that so plague our fragmented society. Be it a police officer with a trigger-happy taser or a racist nurse, these people love mental health systems and what their roles in society entail. I feel sick that people can actively monitor my personal correspondence – most of the time it being innocuous contact with friends and family. I was forced to submit and to be honest dreaded my ten minute sessions on the phone. In a locked ward surrounded by cameras monitoring your every move, with your body given up to non-consensual mind-altering drugs, not being able to set foot on the grass or go to the pub for a pint, or even walk to the local shop, I felt that the monitoring of me could not possibly extend any further. Why does psychiatry have to be so intrusive? Do they really need to know every last detail of a patient? If they ever did anything useful with the information then I might be able to understand the medical necessity of information-gathering. However, the information is always misused and leads ultimately to further oppression.
Eventually, the whole charade cracked. While the nurses were running around lighting cigarettes, hunting down mobile phone chargers and peering over my shoulder at my Facebook messages, they obviously neglected their key role and jobs – that of nursing. An unmonitored patient slipped away to his room and hung himself with his dressing gown belt. Priorities should be given to prevent suicides and it is a nurse’s role to stop this happening. Suicides are sad affairs for all witnesses. I’d been close to the dead patient, sorting him out some tobacco and keeping his spirits high as he came to terms with his own incarceration yet he had gone ahead and done what he intended. All I did during my ten minutes of mobile phone usage that day, was to post an RIP message on my Facebook to my personal friends. It asks you how you feel on Facebook when you post a status. I was feeling sad about the suicide and posted so. Whenever somebody dies who I know, I tend to do a simple RIP message on Facebook. In the modern world of social media, many do this and I believe it is a key way of us dealing with grief as a society. The nurse who was monitoring me freaked out, tried seizing my phone and although I did post my status, I was reported to senior staff and my phone was permanently confiscated. Senior management were called to endorse this ultimate ban and despite my protests, Nursing manager Perry Attwell confirmed that my social media usage was not to be tolerated and the phone would remain in the possession of the Trust.
I do not know where monitoring and surveillance in society will ultimately lead but remember that the insides of mental hospitals where there is a captive population are very often where the most disturbing ideas in society are first trialled. Oppression begins in mental hospitals and they serve as a mirror to the realities and horrors of the real world.