Today I travelled first to Welwyn Garden City hospital to meet Josie, a pastoral volunteer. After some initial confusion, we found one another and headed up to the ward. Josie was quite apprehensive because the previous week she had witnessed a patient attempt to escape and have to be wrestled to the ground.
The ward was single sex – the first I had been to and it was an acute unit where the patients generally had three or more mental health conditions. The first lady we spoke to was very anxious to be going home, but unfortunately it seemed that discharge was quite a way off for her.
Most of the patients were quite unresponsive and in catatonic states which was difficult to see – particularly because I am only too familiar with that almost trance-like state. Another lady joined us and she was possibly one of the ‘wellest’. Both women spoke of their faith and of how it hard to get across to the chapel.
It also transpired that the pay-phone had been locked away because someone had hung themselves with the cord and died the previous week. I found this really shocking and upsetting, but I felt privileged to witness Josie bring comfort.
Unfortunately, some crossed wires meant that I was late for supervision with Verity, but I was encouraged to be more relaxed about being late because units do just continue until you arrived – a thought that I really appreciated because I panic a lot about punctuality. She was also very comforting about if I felt panicky again to take a bit of a break and let them know. I felt blessed to be surrounded by people who wanted to support me and help me in my experience of working with the mentally ill.
That afternoon I accompanied Karen, a lady employed to carry out a project on how music can have a positive effect on mental health – particularly the elderly and those suffering from dementia. The unit we were visiting was an open unit and it just so happened that all the residents were out! Despite this, we were able to have really good conversations with the staff about the role of spiritual care and the positive effect it can have on patients.
After such an exhausting few days, I was glad to finish a little early and meet with Hannah for a coffee and a catch up before a relaxing evening in.