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Posted by Amanda :) ( on April 23, 2002 at 13:42:41:

In Reply to: Have you ever been to a mental hospital? posted by John on April 15, 2002 at 07:36:31:

Greetings John :)

Over a 6 year period in the late 80's - early 90's I was hospitalised on a number of occasions for varying lengths of time. All of this happened following a breakdown due to post-traumatic stress disorder. The hospital where I was so fortunate to have ended up in was a privately run Catholic psych. Hospital - a magnificent property with a huge heritage building (originally a private home) that houses the dining room (top notch food & surroundings) and various meeting and recreation rooms. Incorporated on the extensive grounds were the wards (modern and comfortable) + pool, squash courts, tennis courts, bar-b-que & picnic areas....you name it, they had it!

The ward I stayed in was peopled by many just like me - people who had broken down for whatever reason. Most of the patients were people who worked in 'high risk' jobs; policemen, firemen, doctors, nurses, as well as army vets and a number of victims of violent assault. Each of us had a doctor who worked with us sometimes on a daily basis (depending on the degree of need) and attended other group programs throughout the week. There was a day room where all the patients and staff could mix and relax. The staff on my ward by and large dedicated and talented individuals. I've since learned that this is not so at most other places whether private or public.

Many would argue against the use of medication. Let me say that my own doctor only ever prescribed drug therapy when it was absolutely necessary. It was one of many tools that were used in affecting my recovery. Had I not had access to these medications, I can safely say that I would not have survived. Many times my doctor would suggest therapies that sounded scary to me. She would explain how it all worked and leave the decision up to me. I unfailingly chose to trust her judgement - and she was right every time.

I once had an incredibly depressed room-mate who was scheduled for electro-shock therapy and I was so disturbed by this that I took it up with my own doctor. She explained the proceedure to me. She told me that this type of therapy was extremely refined nowadays - that patients are given a general anaesthetic and that the electric impulses are targetted to very specific areas of the brain. The patient is completely unconscious throughout the entire proceedure and is given analgesics to relieve the resultant headaches that may linger for a day or so. My room-mate had been more depressed than I'd ever seen anyone before in my life - completely bedridden and unable to concentrate during even the simplest conversation. 3 days after the proceedure, she was up and about and turned out to be a very lively and funny girl. I don't think I would have believed it had I not seen it for myself.

I guess the bottom line is that we've all heard the horror stories - and unfortunately some of them are even true. But I think that psychiatric care nowadays is far more advanced than most people realise and is responsible for saving the lives of mentally ill people every day.

Amanda :)

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