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Friday, 25 October 2013

The Abandoned

I've always been monumentally disastrous at goodbyes and tonight, for the first time, I think I know why. I've just watched C4's documentary programme "Unreported World". This week it was about a group of mentally ill campaigners - the Colectivo Chuhcanin - in Mexico City who were returning to local psychiatric institutions to report on the appalling conditions there. It was truly shocking; an elderly woman tied to her wheelchair ALL day, vulnerable men raped by other patients and staff who confessed that the mentally ill are not worthy of human rights. In any case, who'd believe them? These people are abandoned in these hell holes for year upon year upon year and some, through tears, were desperately asking to be rescued. The impact this had on the group, who had first hand experience of these conditions, was deeply moving. They were the lucky ones because they were able to leave; their families supported them and they could scrape together enough money for medication. But how could they abandon the others? people just like them. Human beings, just like us.

This is my Mum, Andrea, when she was in her early twenties taken on the roof of the Maudsley, a psychiatric hospital in London. She was recovering from a breakdown, one of several she's had over the past fifty years. Several years after this photo was taken Andrea was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She has made many attempts on her life, and lost a leg in the 1980's following one very near miss. Now at the age of seventy, she manages her life in sheltered housing with some measure of independence, but it's still a daily struggle. The medication is constant and only last year she spent three months in hospital. Apart from when I was very little (and I have no memory of this) I've never lived with Andrea. I have always visited her wherever she is including many psychiatric wards. So between mum and daughter it's been a lifetime of "goodbyes".

How fortunate we are that conditions on our psychiatric wards are, in the main, good. There's no doubt that Mum, particularly in recent years, has had some really positive treatment. It wasn't always like this though and I've said goodbye to her in some pretty grim places. Places where I see she is not respected nor understood. Places where she isn't heard nor encouraged. Places where I know she would rather not be. Sometimes, even when it's not that bad, it kills you to walk away. So I empathise with Colectivo Chuhcan and commend their brilliant cause.

Please watch this film:-
The Abandoned - Unreported World

Please support this campaign:-
Disability Rights International

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