Letters: Disappointment at no Inclusion of Psychiatric Unit at New Orkney Hospital

Dear Orkney News

envelopeI was disappointed to read that the big, new Balfour hospital is not going to include a Psychiatric Unit, and ward.  I had the impression that one of the good things about the new hospital would be, that it would include various facilities which would mean that folk didn’t have to go south for treatment.

For some reason, which is hard to explain, as it is such a good place to live, Orkney has a high incidence of depression and suicide/attempted suicide.  That a very large, new hospital is being built, without this being taken into consideration, does not add up.  The Orkney Mental Health Team do a good job, but they are under-staffed and under pressure and a specific, staffed psychiatric unit, would help to give them the support which they need.

I am speaking from personal experience here.  About four years ago, I ‘crashed’.  Thankfully, the emergency doctor who came out to see me, listened, assessed my situation, and, rather than having me flown off to Cornhill, advised, if possible, that I should be cared for at home. My husband’s employers were very understanding, and agreed to him working from home for the time it took until I could be left alone without danger of my damaging myself. It may seem like I’m stating that a bit baldly, but it was the case. If left to myself, at that time, I would have followed what seemed to me to be the only way out of a desperate situation, and….stepped off the wheel.

If a person has a troubled mind and a large part to that trouble, is a feeling of being alone and not seeing any point in their existence, imagine if that person then finds themself in a strange place, among strange people?  It can’t help.  From what I hear, the staff at Cornhill do a good job, and, maybe, for some folk , to be away from their usual place, is, in fact helpful to their recovery. What I know is that, for me, and possibly many others too, it would have been a very bad thing, indeed.

Staying here, on Orkney, meant that I could look out the window at familiar sights – Wideford Hill, the lights of Kirkwall twinkling across the bay – even this can help to give a person a feeling  of belonging somewhere, which can matter a lot when your tendency  is to feel that you don’t, belong.

Another factor is that,  away in Aberdeen, it would have been hard for people who cared about me, including my husband, to visit me. Here, in Orkney, he was always there, and a couple of good friends called by too.  One lovely woman we know, called by, with a big bag of veg. and flowers from her garden – that told me something about how much I did  belong here, not……….elsewhere.

I also was allocated a psychiatric nurse, Janet Burgon, who worked with me with understanding and sympathy – she knows the folk I know, and  knows the world I inhabit here – that also helped me to feel that I  ‘belonged’.

I don’t know who makes the decisions about allocation of space in the new hospital, but I will ask them to imagine – and I do realise it is a hard thing to imagine – that they are in a state of deep distress, they feel alone, at the bottom of a dark pit – they then find themselves in a strange place, among strangers.  Would it not be better, and kinder, to make sure that someone in that situation, is as near to home as possible? so that those who care about them, can visit them, and show that they care, and that that person does matter in this life?

It’s not too late, the building isn’t finished yet. I can’t express strongly enough, how disappointed I was to see that there will be no psychiatric unit here, in Orkney, and I ask The Powers That Be, to reconsider – think a bit about it, try to imagine yourself in a situation where you might need that kind of help ( it can happen to anyone).

Each time I go over this time in my life again,  it stirs it up again, so, I try not to, but, in this case I feel that I must add my voice to those calling for more attention to what is referred to as mental health issuers, and, so, I have done so, and include my  name. I can understand when folk don’t want to give their name, but personally I go for the “I am Spartacus”  approach, meaning that, I feel that, if we stand up and stand together, we won’t be so easy to ignore and brush under that carpet.

For that matter, the term ‘mental health issues’ is used a lot, these days – it ruffles me a bit, as – well, it’s all too easy to put some words on something, then it becomes those words – those three word give no idea of what it’s like, to actually feel that you are losing, or have lost your mind – it’s truly and frighteningly horrible.

We need all the help we can get – in that big hospital, is there no room for us?

Yours, Bernie Bell, Orkney

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