In a psychiatric ward


I remember the day we accompanied David when the orderly said: ‘Follow me. We are going to the closed ward of this psychiatric hospital.’ David’s face was chalk-white. My husband looked as frail as a reed and I felt as if I had turned to stone.

 We reached a solid door and he pressed a buzzer. ‘Open Sesame,’ I whispered. The door swung open splitting the beautiful summer day into two. Outside it was bright and sunny, inside, another world. We followed the orderly down a long corridor until he indicated for David to enter a ward. We entered and David was asked to put on the pajamas which were on his bed. They were too small for him but there were only two sizes. Too large or too small.

David described many incidents that occurred in the psychiatric ward but the worst part of being there was the power that the staff wielded over the patients, especially those in the closed ward. He decribed times when orderlies refused to let patients go home for weekends due to minor infractions and in general, their power was pretty daunting.

He felt that the doctors were even worse because they could force someone to take meds without their consent. He was also traumatised by the time that they’d wanted him to undergo ECT. He didn’t in the end, but only because he’d refused to sign the consent form. Imagine a psychotic person, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia being asked to sign something that important?

He hated being put in restraints. I happened to visit one day and when I couldn’t find him in his ward, I searched for him, finding him eventually in a small office, strapped to a hard, narrow bed in the center of the room, reminding me of a piece of meat on a butcher’s block. He was calling for an orderly as he needed to go to the bathroom.

I often wonder – if a person is willing to take medication, and David was, could he have been treated at home?

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One thought on “In a psychiatric ward

  1. Janice Holly Booth

    Jill, you raise a really powerful point — if a person is psychotic (suffering a break with reality) AND they are being incarcerated in a mental hospital then they are probably classified as “incompetent” by legal standards. David’s signature on the form would not have held up in court, if it ever got that far. Why are they asking someone suffering a psychotic episode to sign something that important? Why not request permission from a family member? I appreciate you sharing these stories about your experiences because the majority of people have no idea what goes on (or used to go on) behind the locked wards of asylums.

    Reply

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