Posted on behalf of a Wathwood Hospital Patient
It’s a sad state of affairs when Britain’s Avant Garde psychiatric hospital (awarded top RSU for the last 4 years by the Peer Review Body of the CQC, I believe), does not have the courage to address the stigma that surrounds forensic mental health patients.
How can I say this about a hospital that has treated me so well and has well treated me, a hospital that has outstanding facilities and opportunities, a hospital that many say is peerless: Wathwood Hospital. The fact is that this country of ours, Great Britain, is riddled with fear from top to bottom. From the PM to the nursing assistant. Fear of the media. Fear of the media perspective, and how the media will portray what they deem to be newsworthy. And despite the growing positive coverage of mental health issues, it is not Jeremy Hunt MP, the Health Secretary (who is fighting without much support for a seven day NHS where your chances of survival are not diminished if you fall sick at the weekend), nor the medical doctors (whose Hippocratic Oath swears that, first, they will do no harm – unless it’s a strike day, that is), Nor is it the NHS managers that, ultimately, decide upon the quality of healthcare given to people with mental illness. As for the mentally ill that have committed a crime whist ill, it is not even the Ministry of Justice, under Michael Gove, MP, the Justice Secretary (whom I have personally seen, in the flesh, give a speech which I believe was genuine sentiment saying that everyone deserves a second chance, the chance to be rehabilitated) whom decide their fate. No, it is the media. I say this because all the way through British society’s hierarchical fabric, people’s ignorance is exacerbated by fear. Fear which is cultivated by the media. And it is this fear that is the driving force behind policy production and implementation at Wathwood, not, the welfare of the mentally ill, in both the short term and the long term. “Fear is the mind killer” according to Adam Freeland, and as such, intelligent debate and progressive thinking are almost absent in today’s Britain. Rebekah Brookes of News of the World infamy was a regular guest of the PM at Chequers, for God’s sake – whilst half the population were reading gossip (I mean news) about celebrities and psychotic killers, to titillate their pieties, and entertain their morbid curiosities. The other half of the population were having their lives ruled by MP’s and civil servants who are doing as they’re told to do by the powerful media moguls (rich from newspaper sales paid for by the population that reads the pious gossip) which then affects everyone WAKE UP!
The effect of this, especially in psychiatry, even frontier psychiatry, is a “cover my ass” mission statement to all levels. “Oh, we can’t do that – what will the media say? A consequence of this is that you (or someone you care about) will have your dignity, your freedom, your pride, your ambition, your intelligence, your stature as an equal, removed on a daily basis, if you are sectioned under the Mental Health Act as more and more people are.
As good as Wathwood is, and it is the best in my opinion, this is not good enough. I would like to put forward a formula which I’d to call the “Wathwood Formulae”.
Stigma = Ignorance x Fear
That one’s for the scientist’s.
Stigma = Scary Stories x Media Output
That one’s for the Creatives.
Either way you take the formulae, you get the same stigma. Stigma surrounding mental illness is decreasing as the length of history increases. But in my opinion (hence the article) we need to accelerate the reduction in stigma surrounding mental illness. How? Well, by reducing ignorance, reducing fear, reducing scary stories about the mentally ill being put out to the media, increasing intelligent discussion, increasing compassion and “normalising” treatment of the mentally ill.
What do I mean by “normalising” treatment of the mentally ill? I mean finding out from individuals what their perception of “normal” is, them helping them to achieve this “normal”. I mean treating the mentally ill as “normal” people. I mean being “normal” around people with mental illness. Because, after all, we come into contact with “normal” people every day, and some of those “normal” people will have a mental illness. For some of these “normal” people, their mental illness may be short lived (like having a broken bone) and some “normal” people may have a prolonged illness (like having diabetes), either way it can, and should, be treated without prejudice, without false preconceptions, with compassion and collaboratively.
Now, to me, all that I have written makes perfect sense and is pretty obvious. But then I’m mentally ill. A normal bloke, with a serious long term physical illness (diabetes), and a serious long term mental illness (Schizophrenia). Both treated with medication, but that’s where the similarity in treatment ends. Why? Because one illness is physical, and the other is mental. This has to change.