Excerpts

ALISON:

I’ve been on that ward several times before. Once when I was a patient
there I had leave to go out for a walk and I tried to commit suicide by jumping off Westminster Bridge into the River Thames. I heard voices and the voices were saying “You’re going to be butchered in bed if you don’t jump into The Thames.” I was very very very depressed at the time and I didn’t mind the thought of dying so I jumped into the river but it’s not very deep so I didn’t drown. The police picked me up and put silver paper round me to keep me warm and then they took me back to the ward.

TONY:

I’ve been at home from the age of eighteen ‘til now, looking after my mother. She had a stroke, paralysed on the right hand side. I’ve been a full time carer and it’s driven me into the ground because you have no friends, just a vicious strict Hindu family that’s never there for you. I’ve got no self-respect, just pure hatred as it’s my fault I was abused. My fault for being gay. It’s my fault that I took drugs. My fault that I put myself in that position. That’s what I believed.

Then my mother had another stroke and I decided that if I starved myself it would be a way of dying. So every time I ate I vomited. And seeing my mother like that I thought, “I haven’t got the energy to look after her, I really can’t do it.” My family all came to the hospital but as soon as Mum was discharged nobody came home to help, and that was it. I took an overdose of paracetemol and I slit my wrist and ended up in hospital.

PAM BLACKWOOD:

A very common phrase with self-harm is, “It’s a cry for help.” But my question would be “If you’re crying out for help what is the help you need and why do you need it?” Self-harm is a way of coping with emotional distress and emotional pain and for some people it’s making the pain visible. The emotional pain is so bad that if I cut myself in some way then I’ve got a physical pain and that removes me from the emotional pain, and then I feel OK, until the next time. So self-harm is a survival mechanism. It’s a way of staying alive in the only way that person knows at that time in their life.

DEBBIE:
You’ve got your prison and then you’ve got your nuthouse, and there’s not a lot of difference. And sometimes they put quite a lot of criminals even in the nuthouse these days because they’re too mentally ill to go to prison or they’ve just had too much crack. Everyone’s put in there. Don’t matter what your mental problem is, if it’s crack addicts coming down or alcoholics coming off. It’s just a melting pot of people.

When I went on the Lithium they said it would decrease my episodes, but they didn’t tell me that if I didn’t take the Lithium then my episodes are going to come more worse than they ever had. Like I get seriously ill. Whereas before I might have been getting “crazy nut nut lady” now I’m getting really ill.

DR. RACHEL PERKINS:

The views about Mental Health problems that exist in psychiatric
services are exactly the same as those that exist outside. If our culture believes that people with Mental Health problems aren’t fit to do certain things then you’ve got people going into those services who have those views and if people with Mental Health problems are devalued then so are the people who work with them.

 

DR RUFUS MAY:

I just see terms like Schizophrenia or Bi-polar disorder as diagnoses, labels really. Whenever you put someone on a drug all you’re doing is suppressing
the experience. In a holistic approach the argument is that the illness is a release of toxins from the body, so acute illness is a way of the body attempting to release toxins. It’s a way of the body trying to survive. But medical models try to battle with the illness and treat it and if they can’t treat it then they suppress the symptoms but something else then comes along that’s just as difficult to manage. It might be apathy and hopelessness or it might be that a person puts on weight and develops diabetes and a heart condition. These are all very common effects of being on long term psychiatric medication.

Madness is a creative way of dealing with pain. Brutalising someone does not help them. We need to listen deeply to people in crisis and we need to question the idea that chemical changes are the main cause of emotional changes. If Arsenal lose to Tottenham I will experience a deep sinking feeling. This will probably be reflected by chemical changes in my brain but they did not cause this. Football players did, combined with my attachment to Arsenal!  I would argue that medicalising and numbing our pain does not help. It mystifies its meaning in our lives and ignores the social and psychological avenues to making our lives more fulfilling.

MARY:

To ask a person what your “mood” is, is crazy! I’ve been diagnosed as schizophrenic and manic depressive but I’m a pianist too, and with music it varies all the time, doesn’t it? From a great crashing fortissimo on the piano to a pianissimo passage.

I’ve been in hospital about twenty at least because I know about the realm around us that the angels inhabit and other beings, and I relate to that world and it has got me into trouble with people who don’t believe it exists. They call it “hearing voices” and they call it “mental illness” but I would call it communing with angels really.

I think hearing voices is spiritual awareness and their bloody medicine makes you subnormal. When I take the drugs I’m a zombie and I can’t reply properly. My kidneys are in a terrible state because of the sodium in the drugs but they dish them out like sweets! But you’re not told about the side effects. But it’s all pill pill pill pill and the pills can be dangerous for you and people die much earlier on these pills, that’s what’s been found. But a lot of the drugs are British so the British medicine system is like a huge dinosaur feeding on us.

PADDY BAZELEY:

Maytree is a sanctuary for the suicidal where people can stay up to four nights. It is run by a few full-time people plus something like sixty volunteers who are kind, thoughtful and interested in the guests. Very experienced in terms of being with suicidal people and who have maybe some sort of awareness of our own madness or potential for madness or depression or suicidality.

At Maytree we wanted to provide somewhere where people can feel safe and where they can think for a bit of time about life and death and where they can actually talk about it. Maytree doesn’t really offer respite because it’s actually hard work here. People are encouraged to talk about what has brought them to the point of wanting to end their own lives. We wanted to get a balance of the place being safe in a physical sense that would reflect the safety we were offering in the psychological and emotional sense, because suicidal people often have a fear of actually falling apart.

 

Application for performances should be made to admin@claresummerskill.co.uk.
 

The play “HEARING VOICES” by Clare Summerskill has been published by Tollington Press (2010). The cost is £8.99 plus postage.
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