Storytelling about power

Storytelling about power and partnership

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Personal Power - Robert’s Story 1

The stigma associated with a mental illness label can have devastating social consequences. Individuals bearing such labels experience devaluation and rejection in their communities, effects that exceed those attributable to the symptoms of the mental disorder itself. Experiencing the stigma associated with being labelled mentally ill can lead to premature treatment termination which delays or impedes recovery from a mental disorder. The power of the label itself will have unique, and independent, consequences.

People with mental illness labels belong to an extremely devalued social category. A frequent stereotype about persons with mental illness is that they are dangerous. Indeed, media portrayals emphasize an extremely heightened potential for violence. The mere label of chronic mental illness triggers dehumanising responses. Hence, the default perception about those bearing mental illness labels is one of dangerousness and violence.

Personal Power - Robert’s Story 2

A recent article in the Guardian newspaper reported the case of a man who was off his medication. He started hearing voices coming from his car and caused a bit of a commotion. A neighbour called the police and by the time they arrived the man was asleep in bed. Three officers kicked in his door, yelling commands he could not comprehend, then they beat him with batons until both of his arms and upper body were purple with bruises. They were all defensive wounds. He was charged with resisting arrest. The article highlighted all too often police officers lack knowledge about mental illness and that ignorance can lead to unnecessary violence and harm.

Personal Power - Robert’s Story 3

In my own experience, I was at home when two police officers, a mental health officer, two psychiatric nurses and a doctor arrived at my small one bedroomed flat. I was asked to sit down and was not allowed to walk about the flat. After a brief exchange with the mental health officer I was escorted to a waiting vehicle and taken to hospital. In the ward I was interviewed by a doctor who was told by me that everything was fine and I did not need to be there. Shortly after that conversation three male nurses frog-marched me through the ward, forced me face down on a bed, and injected me. I was psychotic, but no time was given to talk me round to the idea of medication. I woke up in the middle of the night still lying on the top of the bed with all my clothes on.

Personal Power - Robert’s Story 4

I felt that I had lost my voice and that nobody could hear me. It was a degrading experience. I was very ill at the time, however, I could not see it as mania results in a loss of insight into your own behaviour. I resented the way I was treated by the nursing staff. I was medicated so quickly to suit them. After a few weeks I was allowed to walk the hospital grounds during the day. Leaving the ward for short breaks allowed me to slowly start to come to terms with my new situation.

I had been removed from my home restrained, medicated, and left feeling that I had no power or sway with regards to my situation. I finally accepted medication and a diagnosis. And, I am pleased to say that I was at home having a cup of tea when they arrived to take over my life and that the role of the police was a supportive one.