Oakden should have been closed long ago. It was a disgrace. Those of us who knew about what was going on there had been trying to do something about it for years.
Government didn't listen. They needed somewhere. It was being run "on the cheap". It was understaffed. The staff that were there were working too many hours. They were largely untrained and underpaid.
My nephew did a stint there when he was doing locum work - the money which helped to fund the research he was doing. He had signed on for a shift in the emergency department of the related hospital when they told him that they were sending him over to Oakden. He knew nothing about Oakden. He had no training in psychiatry. The very fact that they needed to fill an emergency shift like that rang alarm bells. He did the shift but he didn't want to do another one. He felt he simply didn't know enough - although they would have been more than happy to have him back.
I didn't know he was going there or I might have told him a thing or two. It isn't hard to guess the sort of thing I could have told him. Some of what occurred there is no better than what happened in the Victorian era "insane asylums". I visited once - and once was enough. It was a cold day, too cold for someone to be wandering around barefoot and in nothing more than a t-shirt in the courtyard.
The staff member I spoke to just shrugged and said, "Yeah well you know what they say, 'no sense, no feeling'. I'll go get him in a minute."
"In a minute" was not good enough for me. The minutes in that place tended to be very long.
I did what I went to do - and made sure the patient was back where it was warm - and left. I reported the incident but I doubt it was sent any further up the chain of command.
For five months one year I went in and out of another mental health facility sorting out the life of a friend who was not mentally ill but needed to be in hospital. The mental health unit was the only place that "had a bed". It nearly made a mental health patient out of my friend. We were both appalled by what was or, more correctly, what was not happening there. I remember spending almost two hours there one morning. The woman in the next room was weeping all that time. My friend told me softly, "She was like that all day yesterday too and nobody came. The staff just told her to be quiet."
Was that treating her?
Last year I had occasion to visit the same place again. Nothing seemed to have changed except the faces - of both the staff and the patients. The patient was a "voluntary" one. The harassed young doctor, who might easily have been my niece if I had a doctor-niece, told me, "Let's get her out of here. She won't harm herself and it isn't doing her any good. Will her family bring her for counselling? Will they be involved?"
I suspect that helps - helps a lot. They were in this case and she is a much happier person, happier than she has been for many years. It isn't often that sort of thing happens.
I admire the people who work in that area because they care. Mental health is a tough, tough area.