The bed crisis is a very real thing within mental health wards and yet is something that is rarely spoken about. I hear a lot in the news about general hospitals and operations having to be postponed and people are outraged and disgusted by it, I am, but as someone who has been in the mental health system for years I am often surprised that I don’t hear more about the bed crisis on mental health wards.
I am one person out of many who have needed to be admitted to hospital because of mental illness and I have had several horrific experiences because of the bed crisis, I dread to think of all the combined experiences.
Just before Christmas this year I spent a night in the ‘quiet room’, a room intended for visitors, ward round and patients to sit in and have some quiet time. The staff had to take out all of the chairs and set up a bed in what should have been a communal room on a mixed sex ward. Another time there were no beds available and I had to share a room with another patient and she witnessed me being restrained and injected, there weren’t enough beds for privacy and protection of patients. That is worrying. A couple of years ago I was asked to leave a ward during a time of acute mental illness, I was both physically and mentally in a very unsafe place but was sent home in a taxi due to them needing my bed and me being a voluntary patient.
The most extreme experience was when I was detained under Section 136 and was sat in the S136 suite with a nurse and only a hard plastic chair to sit on. I had been sat there for hours and hours, my back was hurting, my bum was hurting and I was really uncomfortable. They offered me an admission but told me that a bed wouldn’t be available for at least two days and so I would have to stay in this small room with just a chair for the entire weekend. They didn’t have a bed or a mattress and so I decided to go home rather than get the help I needed because in order to potentially get some help I needed to spend two nights and two days sat on the same plastic chair. I have anorexia (chairs hurt bony bums).
It’s shocking that this isn’t a new thing, there is at least 3 years of there being a bed crisis in mental health care. I have known people to go hundreds of miles from their home because there wasn’t a bed available, I was nearly sent to London once and yet what is being done about it? Why aren’t these stories being spoken about in the public domain? No one really knows that this is even going on.