The branch of medicine concerned with the study and treatment of mental illness, emotional disturbance, and abnormal behaviour.
- Oxford Concise Dictionary
People make friends and find lovers in sub-groups of society, and to them the 'class' of their meeting place is irrelevant. Others meet in mental health units, where friendships are made comparatively quickly. But if you are in and out of hospital for too long it can become hard to socialise with anyone that has never been in such a place. Be brave with people that know nothing about psychiatry. Don't hide, seek understanding. Create opportunities to fight the stigma of your diagnosis. A long time ago patients never had the chance. Mental hospitals were dank frantic places, where people paid money to see the 'freaks'. We live in an enlightened age, yet class divisions still exist in the 21st Century. There is virtually no likelihood that a celebrity who behaves outrageously and apparently believes nonsense, will finish up Sectioned under the Mental Health Act. They are considered, merely, 'eccentric'. Yet if similar 'unfinanced' behaviour is exhibited from someone lower down on the social scale, they could be sucked onto a ward, which erodes their very employability. Many have a creative streak that could go beyond the therapy room, but they are unable to utilise their talents until they are well. That takes work.
In-patient care is also affected by a financial distinction. Private treatment is considered more comfortable, and better staffed, than its National Health Service counterpart. I have been subject to treatment in both the public and private sectors, and there is a pronounced difference. After being in an ICU in a private hospital for several weeks (twenty years ago), I eventually went to recuperate in the outer, open, wards, which felt like a holiday. There were no locked doors nor jangling keys here. I developed a sense of belonging and made friends in an optimistic atmosphere. We knew that one definition of the word asylum is 'a safe place'.
I found the NHS wards to be no better or worse in any vital way. Obviously the food and the décor is never so plush, but there is a similar sociability. Patients come onto the ward, often from being traumatised in a forsaken flat, and encounter a vibrant environment. People help to get each other better by meeting and talking privately, or in organised groups. The prescription of psychoactive drugs is the latent objection of almost everybody else in society, what all mental hospitals have in common. Billions of pounds are involved because psychiatry is part driven by the pharmaceutical industry, but all that really matters is for the person taking the tablets to recover. And it is possible. Mental disability can only be managed. Mental illness, by definition, can be cured. I have discussed being well with my parents, with tears in my eyes, and medication is a gigantic source of help.
You may have heard of the Mental Health Act. It was passed in 1983, and updated in 2007. If people are considered a danger to themselves, or to other people, they may be 'Sectioned' under the act and have to take medication for different durations in hospital. Conversely, some people volunteer. If they are completely out of control they will be given medication known as a 'cosh', but not for very long. It can be difficult to reject the reality that you have become accustomed to, but if you can't there is no foundation on which to build yourself. Some people stay on the ward long enough to find the medication that is right for them. Unfortunately this is an experimental process, and tolerating the passage of time it takes to get better maybe another source of the word 'patient'!
If all goes well you will be given a 'care plan', then off you go into the community! I have been taking my tablets for a decade, yet I can write, socialise with friends, I have a full motorcycle licence and I drive a car. I've been fighting my 'voices' everyday for a very long time. Inspite of that, it's OK; I have a rewarding life. A lot of people take their prescriptions at the right times, and in the correct quantities, but it is easy to let that commitment decay. Not through fear or laziness, but because they are flying and decide they don't need it anymore. "I feel so really well at the moment!" is said as they stop taking it, and crash back into an acute unit a few weeks later. The longer you're out of hospital, the longer you're out. Medication is a tailored coping mechanism, and eventually you accept that you will never be re-admitted. Why stop something that is doing good?