I want to make it very clear that this does not mean all hospitals for the mentally ill are bad. I'm sure most are quite good and appropriate for their patients. I can only speak for this one that I visited a loved one in. To add to my previous articles, my purpose for this blog is not to bring disrespect to anyone in any way, so I will not name what hospital it was. I will say that it was not in the state I was living in at the time, which was my native state of Virginia.
I do believe, however, that visiting this hospital was a very strong life lesson for me. I was a teenager at the time, and my concept of hospitals for the mentally ill mostly came from movies or TV. To see the real thing was a huge shock, and I wanted to get out of it as quickly as I could.
The walls were crusty. I'm not sure if that is a good word to use for this description, but it is what I remember. Crusty. I'm not sure with what, but they did not look natural. There was a severe lack of decoration in the hall going from the main building of the hospital to this wing. It was like a portal that the architects of the building forgot was there, or wanted to forget.
I remember there being two sets of metal double-doors, one at the entrance to this wing from the main building, and one opening to this ward. They looked to me like something that would be on giant meet lockers, as if this wing contained nothing else but the dead.
Indeed, those living souls that were unfortunate enough to be here behind those doors were treated as such. There were some couches in the large central social room. There was an old TV turned to a local channel that played Christmas programs, which made the atmosphere even more depressing. There were yellow cabinets along the crusty walls. Why they were there I do not know. They contained nothing.
Laying on the floor was an older woman. Clothed in only a hospital gown, she cried and repeated the words, over and over as if an unending loop, “Help”.
No one came to help her.
We went back to the room of the person we were visiting. There were no pictures on any of the walls. There were no windows. The florescent lighting glowed and buzzed.
We did not sit down as there were no chairs. Only a bed with a metal frame and yellow blankets.
As soon as we were finished visiting, I walked down the hallway as fast as I could. I kept my eyes off of those crusty walls and firmly on the windows of the double-doors leading away.
There was nothing that I could do for anyone beyond that hallway, other than to sincerely hope that, one day, they found their way out as well.
The person we were visiting did, finally, escape. It was truly a place to put people who you want to forget about, a cruel place void with love and attention. I thought to myself that the only thing wrong with the people locked away here is that the people who are responsible for them want to forget about them, or hide them.
This particular hospital was no hospital at all. It was, perhaps, the closest thing to innocence a prison can be.
I mention it here to make the point that we must be careful of where we put those who cannot care for themselves. We must investigate the places where we choose to place the helpless, to verify if they will help them, or neglect them.
As mentioned this is not a reflection of all hospitals, and perhaps the one I visited so long ago has been updated, cleaned, the walls no longer crusty.
I write this as to say that treatment should never be trauma.