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Anecdotes of life as a mental health patient


by Colin King

Before I begin this week’s exploration of mental health issues, I would like to make a brief tribute, in light of the recent passing of a stellar human being, barrister-at-law and human rights advocate Nicole Sylvester. She had been a subject of a non-published article of mine, omitted as a sign of respect, since she had passed around the time of the article’s genesis. Nicole and I had often run into each other when I worked at full-time reporting and we had discussed in particular the exploitation in certain areas of commerce, of newly employed females, especially in the supermarkets as regards salary. The result was an article ‘Revamp Salary Scales’.{{more}} The context of the omitted article previously mentioned included Ms Sylvester’s intention to investigate human rights violations at the Mental Health Centre at Orange Hill. May she R.I.P. I can’t wait to read her book.

So, onto mental health issues. This week we look at the victimization of mental patients by a large cross-section of the general public.

One horrifying example is that of GH. He is a lifer, allowed on the outside to work. He was thrown out of a van one time and beaten savagely by 10 or so individuals because, as they put it, he was a ‘crazy man.’ GH is a talented individual and was a calypso writer and steel pan player with local steel orchestras before he was committed to the institution on criminal charges related to mental issues.

Next is the case of a beautiful female patient, whom I like to term as class A material, because she presents and dresses well. She was hired by a popular restaurant, but after the workers begun complaining and outed her as a ‘graduate’ of the mental health system here, she was fired, in four days.

A disturbing trend seems to be that whether a patient is ill or healthy, if he/she gets into a mere disagreement with another person, or even for the sake of not liking that patient, they call the police, with often false reports that the patient is a violent threat. The police bring them in and within a very short period of time they are back on the outside. This trend constitutes a nuisance factor, since an under-staffed MHC is already overwhelmed with addressing the issues of long-term patients at the institution with valid reasons for being there. One staff member, who lives at Glen, actually witnessed such an attempt and identified himself as an MHC employee and aborted the impending arrest. Greetings to DM, who last month was in just such a situation and is now on the outside — be careful.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that the renovated Mental Health Centre at Glen will be ready for relocation sometime in January 2016. This from a senior staff member.

The new facility will feature a new kitchen, rendering obsolete the current catering system, according to a higher-up in the Ministry of Health and should go a long way in cutting costs, which monies could be useful elsewhere.

Where there’s life, there’s hope.

I hope Vincentians get the point of this article.