Jim’s story

Jim has faced mental health stigma and discrimination in a range of places throughout his life – including those where you would expect to find support.

The Scottish Mental Illness Stigma has shown that nearly three quarters (74 per cent) of people with severe and enduring mental health problems have faced stigma and discrimination in mental healthcare services.

Here, Jim shares one experience from his time in a psychiatric ward, and reflects on the importance of kindness and compassion.

This was my second time hospitalised for a mental breakdown. I was not prepared to receive the following commentary from the head psychiatrist, he pointed to my chest with his right arm and said without any forethought:

“You are out of here in two weeks!”

I couldn’t believe that someone of his experience and training could be so blunt.

There was no compassion, no empathy, no attempt to engage with me in any way.

My thoughts were, “What have I done? Who are you to speak to me in that manner?”

I was scared and felt guilty for just being there, to this man of authority and power - he was a man of stone.

There was no attempt to say, “Would you like to talk about what happened? I’m here if you need me.”

As the days progressed I was asked to attend a Multidisciplinary Meeting. The very title of this meeting almost shocked me. What had I done? Why am I being disciplined?

I was given assurance from one of the staff that there was nothing to be concerned about.

I entered a large room, many people of different professions sat on chairs no doubt impatiently waiting to hear my testimony as to what lead to my breakdown, pens, pencils, notepads… At first I believed this was a good opportunity to disclose to strangers. I foolishly believed, “These people care, they must do - they are professionals.”

Afterwards, I waited in the corridor and expected some feedback. “Thank you, it must have been difficult for you to share your experience.” “I hope you get better soon, take care.”

Nothing. No comments, no engagement.

I felt used. I felt exposed. They were here to do a job, tick the boxes and pat each other on the back for being the academics they had become.

My negative feelings and emotions were now compounded with more negativity. I could feel the physical weight of them on my chest and arms, my mind was about to explode. I wanted to shout at them, “Who the hell do you people think you are? I trusted you. I TRUSTED YOU! You B******S!”

Is that what these people have become. Robots. Androids. Cyborgs.

Is this the penalty for trusting people? I gave them my power. How can they be so callous, how can all that study, training, meetings seminars, conferences, all that study study study produce humans with no compassion, no empathy no humanity?

I was just a caged animal for them to gaze at, to perhaps say, “Another one bites the dust, you poor b*****d. I wouldn’t give you the time of day. Oh well, I wonder what I’ll have for my tea, I need to get my hair appointment.”

I was asked to consider Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). What? I never heard that before.

One good experience though - a female nurse listened to me, she was one of the few that cared. I wanted to give her a hug.

Later that year, the NHS said, “No you’re not getting CBT, you’re not getting psychotherapy you had it before, it didn’t work.”

That was it. Nothing. No signpost to alternative therapies. As far as they were concerned, I was a lost case, that’s how it felt.

My GP did more for me than those at this hospital, a damn sight more.

All that training, qualifications, doesn’t mean anything if you don’t care about people.

It’s just blah blah blah blah.