I Went Undercover to Expose Abuse at a Mental Health ‘Hospital’

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From the BBC: “A vulnerable young woman is locked on the other side of a thick glass window, crying like I have never heard anyone cry before.

For hours I have been sitting outside the small room, listening to her desperate pleas to be let out.

This is the image that haunts me from the three months I spent working undercover for BBC Panorama as a healthcare support worker.

. . . before starting work, Greater Manchester Mental Health – the NHS trust which runs Edenfield – gave me a one-day online induction.

Then I was out on the ward floor, looking after patients for up to 12 hours a day. I was paid £9.51 an hour, less than some supermarkets might pay me to stack shelves.

. . . extremely vulnerable and sensitive patients can find themselves living alongside a convicted murderer, perhaps recently transferred from prison with mental health issues.

They live together in a highly restrictive environment and are expected to get on with each other.

. . . Seclusion is only supposed to be used in extreme cases, for the shortest time necessary, to prevent people harming others. But staff told me one woman had been confined like this for more than a year.

I spent hour after hour tasked with observing patients locked in these rooms. Some of them left a huge impression on me. I had perfectly normal conversations with articulate, funny and fiercely intelligent young people who have strong ambitions and desires to better their lives.

But instead, these patients are locked away in the formative years of their lives. Not only that, they also told me that Edenfield was actually making them worse.

. . . A support worker on one ward described a ward as a “dangerous shit show”. Another said the hospital was “going to the dogs”.

In this absence of senior leadership and managers, a bizarre dynamic evolved. Staff behaviour was strange – sometimes juvenile, sometimes actively cruel.

. . . Harley, a 23-year-old woman with autism, was spoken about throughout the hospital as if she was a kind of monster. Most staff showed little compassion or understanding about her complex needs.

She would sometimes shout, and I was told she had been aggressive towards staff, but she said she was reacting to being provoked.

I found Harley to be highly articulate with a clear understanding of the life she was missing. She knows she is not getting what she needs and was determined not to be broken.

I was in the room when managers agreed she should be restrained and forcibly placed in seclusion. I saw her dragged from a mattress on the floor and pinned to the ground face down, screaming.

It was chilling.

I had to leave the room and get on with the rest of the day, but it caught up with me on the drive to my flat. I pulled over in a supermarket car park and broke down, hands shaking, tears streaming down my face. Nothing has ever upset me more.”

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Related:

‘Toxic Culture’ of Abuse at Mental Health Hospital Revealed by BBC Secret Filming →

Hospital Seclusion: ‘I’ve Been Treated Like an Animal’ →

Years of Scandal and Promises as Patients Suffer →

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