Tag Archives: psych ward

Free Resources

The first installment in what will become a growing library of resources on my website is for people who learn a friend or loved one is in a psychiatric ward or clinic. This can be a confronting situation, and sometimes people are not sure how to react. This page contains suggested topics of conversation and gift lists to help make that first visit seem less overwhelming. Enjoy!




Filed under Out

Black Psych Ward Humour: Songs

My spirits need a lift this evening, so I’ve taken the top 10 songs from JJJ’s Hottest 100 and had a bit of fun. The original song titles are on the left, the ‘tweaked’ ones on the right. Please feel free to add your contributions in the comments section below:

1. Riptide Downslide
2. Royals Doctors
3. Get Lucky Got Unlucky
4. Do I Wanna Know? I Don’t Wanna Know
5. Drop The Game What’s My Name?
6. Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re Low?
7. Young and Beautiful Split and Bountiful
8. Resolution Desolation
9. Is This How You Feel? Is This How You Really Feel?
10. Strong Not So Strong


Filed under Up

Revisiting the Psych Ward

Don’t worry, I haven’t been re-admitted! That wouldn’t be the end of the world – after all, I’d only be re-admitted if I needed it – but, thankfully, I don’t need it right now. However, I have been back to the psych ward I spent so much time living in last year.

In 2013, due to extreme depression and anxiety, there were four months when I spent as much time in hospital as I did at home. Thankfully my wonderfully plastic mind has redacted most of those months out of my memory banks, but I remember the good bits: laughing hysterically with some of the patients who’d become friends, the nurses’ names, the times hospital felt like a haven rather than a prison.

I’ve attended the same building as an outpatient quite a few times since then: my medications bloke is housed in the same building, as well as some other services, but I hadn’t been back on the ward until a few days ago.

One of my very good friends is “in” right now having a course of ECT. Obviously, I’ve been going to visit and support her.

In 2010 I also had a lengthy hospitalization, in the city I used to live in. I also went back to visit, this time to help out a friend who only had accompanied leave (i.e. she wasn’t allowed to leave the hospital without a responsible adult). She needed cigarettes, and so called me up to come walk her to the shops. When I turned up at the hospital, one of the nurses laughed and said to her, “So this is your ‘responsible adult’?” Way to make someone feel good, lady.

Going to visit my friend these last few days has been a completely different experience. The staff were friendly and welcoming. for a start. I even saw one of the clinical coordinators who’d helped me out last year and clapped him on the shoulder. “I haven’t forgotten I owe you one,” I said jovially. “Only one?” he replied. Apparently favours accrue interest!

Even being in the place felt good. I wasn’t overwhelmed with gut-wrenching fear. I didn’t feel panicky. My friend just happens to be sleeping in my old best (weird!) and even going into that space felt OK.

I’m pretty chuffed that I could go back to a place in which I had suffered a fair bit last year, and feel good about being there. The place is a good place. My friend is in good hands. And should I ever have to be re-admitted, I know I’ll be OK, too.


Filed under In

Medication Queue Blues

A little-known terror of the psychiatric inpatient system is the medication queue.

Imagine a group of mentally unwell people arriving at an inadequate row of plastic chairs in no particular order to wait for their personal medications to be dispensed through one of three glass windows, as the patients step up to a window, in order of arrival. Can anyone else see a problem with this?

It’s actually quite amazing that the ‘system’, such as it is, works so well. In all my hospitalizations, I’ve only ever seen or heard two blow-ups at medication time related to the queue system.

I’d better define some terms first. I’m talking about adult wards in private psychiatric clinics in Australia. All admissions are voluntary, and patients with more extreme problems are either in an intensive care unit or at a different type of hospital which can cater to their needs.

Some people take the medications queue in their stride, but I once brought it up in group therapy, and there was a general agreement that it’s a fairly stressful situation (all bar one extroverted and highly confident patient who couldn’t see what we were going on about). Because people arrive in dribs and drabs, there’s no order to the queue – so somehow you must remember who was there before you. I do it by counting heads. The problem with my method is that it doesn’t identify who’s still waiting, so if, say, the person immediately ahead of you in the queue forgets their place, there’s this awkward holdup while everyone says: “Were you next?” “Not me, I think it was you.” “Who, me?” [Yes, you. Just go to the window and get your fucking meds so the rest of us can move along.]

During the group therapy session in which I raised the topic, one brave soul suggested numbering the seats from left to right, and having people sit down in order and move along. A few problems were identified:

a) people are always being admitted to and discharged from the ward, so the new-though-sensible rules would need to be continually explained

b) some people bring knitting or other craft projects to keep them occupied while they wait, and won’t want to move seats

c) for some reason, no matter which hospital it is, there never seem to be sufficient seats

d) come on, we’re talking psych patients here! Are they really going to follow the rules?

Look, perhaps it’s just my anxiety talking, but it seems a minor miracle that the medication queue works at all. As a psychiatrist said to me once, with all these unwell people living in close quarters, it’s amazing we don’t have more disruptions.

Do you have a psych hospital bugbear? A story of systems which somehow hang together?


Filed under In


I’ve been thinking about friendship lately, and today, unfortunately, I have found myself ruminating on past hurts.

I moved to a new city a couple of years ago and immediately started up a business. I worked my ass off (oh how I wish that were a literal statement!) until my mental health crashed in June this year, and as regular readers will know, life has been somewhat constrained since then. All this means that I haven’t really had time to make many actual, real friends here. (Some, but not many.)

Today I have been thinking in particular of two people I feel really let me down when I was in hospital. I thought we had built a good, mutual friendship: we did lunch regularly, though not frequently; they put work my way; I was their confidant in times of need, and kept their secrets; I helped one of them find support when she started a new job.

So why, when I emailed to say I was in hospital, did they say they would not be coming to visit me? Not that they couldn’t make it this week; not that they would let me know when they could come; not any of the other myriad softer ways of letting me down. Would not. It’s such a damning refusal.

Ruminating like this isn’t healthy. I should either contact them and air this matter, or find a new way to think about it which doesn’t involve blaming me, or them. Failing that, I could picture putting these concerns into a box, locking it up, then imagine it in a place where I’ll trip across it later – preferably at a time when I am capable of a more healthy reaction.

But right now, it’s stinging. I cannot help but think that if I’d broken a leg, fallen down a cliff, even needed treatment for cancer, they would have come – or at least would have softened the blow of not coming. I cannot help but think it was the fact that I was in a psych ward which kept them away, and made it OK in their minds to discard me so completely.

Right: it’s time to get constructive. I am setting a timer on my mobile for ten minutes as I type this … done. In ten minutes’ time, I will put this matter from my mind for the rest of today, and when it comes nudging back, be disciplined in saying “thanks, but no thanks, mind! I’m not thinking about that, or feeling about that, right now”.

But, just as those ten minutes are counting down … what do I do  now? Do I want these people to be my friends any more? Do I cut them off completely, or relegate them to ‘acquaintance’ status? Am I engaging in black and white thinking? Can I give them a call in a few weeks’ time and just not mention the matter at all, perhaps only commenting if they bring it up? Argh … now I can’t wait for these ten minutes to be up.

Bloody stigma. I hate you. Go away.


Filed under Out, Up