Tuesday 16 April 2024

Closing the "mental hospitals"

was done to save money. It was thought it could be done when the then new anti-psychotic drugs became available. They were going to be the wonder drugs which would allow people to live "normal" lives. All people had to do was keep taking them and everything was going to be okay...except that it has not worked out that way.

The man who committed the horrific act in the suburban shopping centre allegedly had a history of mental illness. What he was thinking at the time we will never know but is there a chance the whole incident could have been prevented if he had been taking some sort of prescribed medication? Did he need to be in what we used to call "a mental hospital" - a psychiatric institution of some sort?

There are several "group houses" in this area. They are supposedly there for the benefit of people who have psychiatric illnesses, people who need a bit more help in coping with the everyday world.  If someone asked me whether they "work" my answer would be a firm "no". The residents of these group houses wander the streets for the better part of the day. Some of them come into the library, others wander into the shopping centre. There don't appear to be any programs or activities designed for them. The library staff cope as best they can when there is an "incident". The shopping centre staff sometimes provide a free drink in order to get them outside again, away from shoppers who feel uncomfortable in the presence of people who are often unwashed and definitely strange. 

For some time one of the female residents would come to the knitting group at the library. We did what we could to accommodate her. I actually admire the way in which our group worked hard to try and make her feel welcome. She thought she could knit and she had some idea but it was a mess. I and another member would try and give her some discreet help but she would get agitated if it was "wrong".  More often than not she would "forget" to come. She really only appeared if she happened to see us there and had, for some reason, packed her knitting into her bag.  We have not seen her for almost two years now. I have no idea what has happened to her. Perhaps she will simply turn up one day? It does bother me though. I wonder what has happened to her. Have they moved her somewhere else? Did she lash out and injure someone.

And there is the man who buys the big bottles of cheap soft drink and then sits outside the shopping centre rocking backwards and forwards. Someone tried to move him on one day and intervened. It was a silly thing to do I suppose but I told them he was not "drunk". The person trying to move him on looked at me in disgust and strode off - but at least he left. The mentally ill man just looked at me and went back to drinking something orange coloured as he rocked backwards and forwards. He still comes in each morning for the same bottle of drink. There was genuine concern for him the day it was not available on the shelf but one of the senior staff poured tins of the same cheap drink into a bottle and gave it to him that way. It was a small act of kindness but it also prevented an incident. This man is non-verbal. If something goes wrong in his world he cannot defend himself. 

I wonder whether someone like our "knitter" or our "soft drink" man would be better off in a facility where they had activities designed for them. What would happen if they had to get up in the morning and someone ensured they had a shower as well as taking their medication? What would happen if they had to do some gardening or they were taken on a hike into the hills to collect rubbish? What would happen if they were given any sort of activity at all? 

It might be cheaper (although I doubt that) to have them "housed in the community" or would it be more dignified if they were actually cared for? Would it also have stopped the tragedy of those stabbings?  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The current situation is not work. It needs “fixing” seeing the only people benefitting are those cheaply “caring for people” but actually defrauding these people (and the rest of the community) by not caring for them properly.