My experience of the psychiatric system
– an immigrant mother speaks out
''The reason why I can't stand up, is because I don't feel well enough. I've been in a mental hospital for the past seven to eight months and I just came out two weeks ago. I just wanted to say something about the professionals that are there, and the way they deal with people. For example, with me, when I felt fine, when I asked to go home, they wanted to keep me there. They denied it for a long month, and they left me on the same dosage. I asked them to reduce the dosage because I was having side effects like fainting and feeling dizzy, I crawled, I had to crawl on the floor, I had to go along on my knees and crawl on the floor.
And they kept me there for another week. And then the week after, they decided I had to go home. They decided, it is only when they decide, you know. You're like a guinea pig for them. So they decided that I should go home, and I said that I don't want to go home, because I didn't feel well enough to go home. I mean, the situation when you suffer from depression, schizophrenia, every day is different. It's step by step, and each day is different from the other. But they said 'We need the bed'. 'We need the bed, and you have to go home'.
So, I came back home one day and I felt completely terrified being there on my own, and in the silence, and so I came back to the hospital. They were not pleased. They let me stay another two weeks, but they couldn't wait to get rid of me. And now I have the Home Treatment Team coming to see me at night and they just come to check the medication. And they try to talk as well, but it’s up to me to talk to doctors, doctors don't listen to the team. They're really sorry for me as well, because it will take me a long time. Giving me this medication, it will take me a long time to come back to normal.
And also, lots of young people that were there with me -- I'm not homeless, thank God -- but lots of those people were homeless, and there is no connection between the professionals like the psychiatrists and the housing people, social workers. These people should work together as a team to solve a problem, than to be completely disconnected from each other. Instead they keep them there like a car park, because they don’t want to spend the money to reintroduce the patients that are well enough, into the community, under the care of the outpatient team.
They don't talk about it, they let it go on for weeks and weeks, months and months, and without a fixed address, people are left without money for two years and only because they are waiting for a place, or a hostel, or a private flat, and probably because Housing Benefit doesn't want to pay as well, and the social workers are of course on the side of the government.
So it is not nice to see people vegetating there, not improving, because it is not organised. I had one shiatsu massage in seven months, and did two art classes, in seven months, that's all. And there is nothing there, I really felt desperate. There isn't chess or drama, and there are no other activities. You have nothing to do, except smoking. You are allowed to go outside to smoke for 10 minutes every hour, which is the only thing that helps you relax. The gym that is there is very small and very unequipped. I think it’s a shame really and in a mental hospital like Park Royal Centre, where I've been. Cos I've been twice in the South [of London] and they were worse. I think it’s a shame that it is left in this state of being completely abandoned, almost abandoned. And they take very high wages these people, and behave like they were the masters of the world.”
From “Women Together”, 9 November 2013, event held by Crossroads Women.