I’ve been struggling with mental health since I was eight years old. Recently, I had also become a heavy drug user and a binge drinker. On Sunday 12th November, after a near-successful suicide attempt, I was found and sent to Mater Dei’s Observation Ward. One day later, I was sent to Mount Carmel, and that was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.
I arrived at the Mount Carmel Mixed Admissions Ward (MAW) on Monday 13th November. Just days before, I had read about the recent uproar on the hospital’s structural foundation being unstable, and the strikes that nurses from a few wards had just gone on. The place has such a general stigma around it and the level of professional support it offers, that I was terrified and expected it to be hell.
Upon arrival, I was stripped of all jewellery, all technology, shoelaces, hoodie strings… everything. I was put on what is known as Level 1, which is basically when someone is a risk to themselves. I was sent to my dorm, where I was amongst five other patients. In total there were about 20 patients in the female ward and 17 in the male one. The two are left to mingle during the day, but are separated at night and during shower time. The MAW is made up of various types of people; those suffering from depression, others who have schizophrenia, and even older patients waiting to be sent to a retirement home.
To be completely honest, my first few days were awful.
A strict daily routine is implemented:
7:30am: Everyone must be up and out of bed to go have breakfast. After breakfast, patients are expected to shower. Privacy is minimal, and as someone who lacks in the self esteem department, finding windows into all bathrooms, showers, and dorms was extremely embarrassing at first. Medication would then be given.
9am: Patients would be collected for occupational therapy, or OT. I was not permitted OT during my first week due to me being diagnosed as Level 1, which meant I needed to be monitored 24/7. As I was not allowed OT, and patients aren’t allowed to go back to bed, I spent quite a bit of my time reading, writing, and colouring in my adult colouring books.
11:30am: Lunch would be served. It was no five star meal, but good, hot food would be served every lunch and dinner with pretty good portions.
12 – 2:30pm: Patients would be allowed to rest in their rooms, or return to OT at about 12.30/1.
2:30pm: Afternoon medications would be handed out, along with tea and coffee. All medications would be prescribed by one’s psychiatrist, who carries out an assessment on each individual before prescription.
5pm: Dinner. After this, all forms would be locked until 7:30/8, when the night medications would be given after coffee, tea and sandwiches are handed out.
“It wasn’t until a few days – Thursday to be exact – that I started to actually feel better.”
Throughout the day and spread across the week, patients have appointments with their assigned psychologist, their social worker (if one is necessary), university students carrying out research, and their ward round once a week where their psychiatrist evaluates their patient’s progress (or regress).
It wasn’t until a few days – Thursday to be exact – that I started to actually feel better. I made use of my time there and evaluated my entire life, the situation I was in, and what it is I wanted, liked, and disliked for and about myself. By the end of the week, I was taken off of Level 1 by my psychiatrist and allowed to go to OT.
I was also permitted to go to the gardens on the premises with my family, who would have to sign me out. Patients are counted regularly and monitored by the nurses (who mostly specialise in mental health nursing) to ensure all the patients are okay. The nurses also regularly checked whether patients were feeling alright and provided a safe environment where patients are encouraged to communicate any problems or feelings they may experience.
OT was a very beneficial resource, where a gym, a kitchen, woodworking, painting, and other activities are offered. Each individual patient at OT decides what it is they want to do. I went with DIY and crafting. Within a week, I had completed three personal DIY projects of my choosing. The occupational therapists were extremely welcoming and offered a safe haven for patients. OT also made me realise that there were a lot of things I could do which weren’t drugs, and better ways to make use of my time. It also taught me to finish what I start, and how satisfying it feels to accomplish even the smallest of things.
The nurses and carers at the ward were mostly very efficient and hard working, and the one problem I had encountered was quickly dealt with by the Head Nurses. Food of good quality, hot water, and most required resources were provided for free. For those who have nobody to help, clothing and hygiene products were also provided. The ward was also kept meticulously clean by the cleaning staff every day. All patients are carefully monitored while being respected, a balance which is not easy to find.
Upon positive progress, patients are slowly granted freedom. In my case, I was eventually granted leave from the hospital for a few hours one Sunday, and later a few nights home, to a few days at a stretch so as to test the waters. In all honesty, the psych professionals provided were extremely patient and knew damn well what they were doing.
Within a few days, I’d forgotten that I was in a hospital, and it felt like I was just taking an extended, well needed break from my life.
“I feel the best I’ve ever felt, and my stay at this hospital is how trying to kill myself made me want to live again”
I personally found the hospital to be extremely beneficial and a very safe environment. I can actually say that I feel the best I’ve ever felt, and my stay at this hospital is how trying to kill myself made me want to live again.
As someone suffering with chronic depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder, I genuinely believed I would never find the resources I needed to be okay. The Mental Health Services, however, did not only prove me wrong by helping me find coping strategies. They also helped me kick my substance abuse and binge drinking, while finding safe and useful alternatives which help me grow and develop as a person.
I’m hoping to be released today, December 1st, as it’s my 19th birthday next week. It’s the first time in my life I’m not dreading my birthday, making my three week stay at Mount Carmel the best thing that’s ever happened to me.