The other day I read a comment on social media which asked approved mental health professionals to think before they section someone in order to get them a hospital bed. It was stated that being detained under the Mental Health Act remains on a persons file for life, and suddenly it got me thinking about the impact of my time in mental health services.
You see I had assumed that having not been detained under the Mental Health Act for over 5 years, I was free of that part of my life. Indeed I haven’t been in secure services since that time either, so again I had assumed it was behind me. Yet if the comments are true and these things stay on file for life, I am in many ways doomed.
Doomed because no matter how long I keep myself out of a mental health bed when people look at my medical file, my past will jump out and hit them in the face. The professionals will see that I have been sectioned for more than a year and that I have spent time locked in a forensic medium secure unit. Will they then assume that I have a criminal record, because most people think you only get sent to these units if you have committed some type of heinous crime. Furthermore will they wrongly assume I must be dangerous, because believe me that’s what some misguided people think.
When I was studying for my degree I had to challenge the course lecturer on the issue of forensic services, it was stated in course material that these units were for criminals with serious Mental Health issues. It also stated that they had to have demonstrated a high degree of risk to others to be sent to these places. I knew of course this wasn’t always the case, I was living proof of that and yet it took a lot of determination and challenges to prove to them their views, their facts were both flawed and inaccurate.
I doubt that I could change or remove these medical facts about my section from my file, they are truthful and accurate statements, the difficulties lie of course in people’s interpretation of those facts. I have always wondered what people would think of me having being detained, would professionals treat me differently.
I know in the early days post discharge I feared being re-sectioned, I worried that at the sign of any small crisis I’d be locked up and send miles away. I was certain if I needed hospital I would be send back to secure services and yet my then CPN told me I was being silly, no one would judge me. But that fear remained and I think that fear has led me to fight steadfastly to never need a mental hospital bed again. That’s why I find it hard to call for help when I’m struggling, I have self harmed before because I was so desperate and yet I wouldn’t, I couldn’t call crisis services.
Now it seems that these facts will stay on my file for life and I can’t help wondering if that’s already led to changes in how people deal with me. Do professionals already treat me with more caution, do they pre-judge me when they see my history. Will they pre-determined who they think I am, instead of coming and seeing me as blank canvas and judging me on my merits.
What about if I seek employment will these facts be available to prospective employers and if so how will that impact me, I doubt it’s going to help. What if I want to volunteer and need a DBS check (police check), will these things come up in that. There are so many unanswered questions that I have, so many fears that my past will taint my future. The powers that be need to allow this data to be removed from a persons health file after a certain number of years.
To those Approved Mental Health professionals (AMHP) who now hold the power to take away a persons liberty, I’d ask them to consider their actions. I feel I was sectioned initially to off load cost implications of a specialist bed from one team to another. I know my later sections were done by the very people whose living depended upon me filling their beds, operating in the private sector that was funded by the NHS.
The fact AMHP’s today are placing people on a section because that’s the only way to find a bed is deeply worrying. Do they realise the impact they make on that persons life, not just at that moment of taking away someone’s liberty but the longer term implications. It seems now those implications last a lifetime, and my records are duly marked. As I said before it feels a bit like I’m doomed, this life sentence is hanging over my head forever and there little I can do to change that.
The sad thing is I was sectioned because I was unwell, I didn’t ask to be unwell it wasn’t even of my doing. Yet it seems being unwell is punishable in this country and probably many others too with a life sentence of being labelled, pre-judged, disadvantaged and treated differently.
copyright DID Dispatches 2014