Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

The English Patient

There's a rather remarkable letter in the current London Review of Books concerning the treatment of Britain's mentally ill. It begins this way:

I have been in and out of NHS mental hospitals for more than forty years. The first, following a suicide attempt, was Bethlem Royal, the old Bedlam, by then moved to a huge semi-rural site near Beckenham. On arrival my first feeling was of immense relief; I was in a safe place and didn't have to worry any more. One almost never saw a psychiatrist; 'treatment' consisted of tranquillisers that kept one calm and anti-depressants that did nothing at all; this was in the days before Prozac. But the nurses were friendly and spent all day with the patients, chatting, playing games (Scrabble with schizophrenics can be very entertaining), going for walks in the grounds, even cooking meals with us. The male wing had a full-size snooker table and the female a grand piano, though the eccentricities of women playing snooker and men the piano were tolerated. After the first week or two I could even go for unaccompanied walks in the grounds. It would have been a very nice place to stay if one weren't mad.

You can find the rest here. (Scroll down to "Keep me in!") It is surely one of the more interesting things you'll read all day.

7 Comments / Post A Comment

HiredGoons (#603)

"My fondest reminiscence is when they drilled a hole through my skull just above the temple to let out the evil spirits."

johnpseudonym (#1,452)

I would still miss Nurse Ratched.

shorty (#885)

Thanks for that. It reminds of William Styron explaining in "Darkness Visible" that what he really needed to help with his depression was time to himself to just sit and enjoy the silence.

RickVigorous (#214)

Playing Mystery Date with schizophrenics is also a lot of fun…trust me.

katiebakes (#32)

In my married-women-and-me book club (shut up, Natasha) we recently read a book called The Quiet Room by Lori Schiller. It's a memoir by a woman afflicted with debilitating schizo-affective disorder.

I think the most striking parts of the book are her detailed descriptions of the various mental hospitals/homes/centers/halfway houses she cycles through … much of what she says dovetails with the letter linked above, particularly with respect to the differences in how each place looks at when, how, and why patients should be ultimately discharged.

Anyway, so I really liked the above link.

That last paragraph
"… whispered in a suitably shamefaced sepulchral"
is exquisite.

In that same vein is 'Stone Angel' which is about deteriorating in a nursing home and all the mad politics of it.

Oh and *shoves Katie*

Tulletilsynet (#333)

This kind of prime shit, also last week's boobyhatch memoir, is an example of how LRB is a million times better to subscribe to than the tedious NYRB. — (Another is that LRB runs better American writers than NYRB.)

Or just compare the personal ads.

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