Hidden stories of abandoned mental hospital revealed

“After we published an anonymous account of life in St Ita’s psychiatric institution, a photographer and a doctor were among readers to add to its portrait of life there …”

Garrett Igoe’s poem, Patient:

I pierced your innocent vein with bevel up,
infused a swift sedating rush,
held back healthy curls
from your high brow,
applied the shocking cups.
You convulsed
in that red bricked
sea swept place,
memories eroded, like peeling paint,
decades of wasted afternoons,
one sock black, the other baby blue.
Rattle rattle dum dum dum
your mantra, drowning
shouts from the female side,
charge nurse X doled
out the Major, you told me
you liked the mauve
of Doctor X’s jacket.
On night rounds, I ignored
the scurry of black eyed creatures,
held tight the keys
of twenty four locked wards.
And finally I abandoned you,
left you to go on
showing your tongue
smacking your lips,
rolling your eyes,


The Irish Times >>>


Prof Jim Lucey’s new book In My Room – the Recovery Journey as Encountered by a Psychiatrist

His new book In My Room – the Recovery Journey as Encountered by a Psychiatrist , is based on composite real-life experiences of depression, alcohol dependence, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress. What Lucey focuses on, though, is not treatment plans and therapeutic approaches, but how the individuals describe their experience and how, in most cases, they learn to move beyond it.

Lucey cites Dr Dorothy Keelan, former senior psychiatrist at the Mater Hospital and the late Prof Anthony Clare, former medical director of St Patrick’s Hospital, as the most significant influences on his decision to become a psychiatrist.

“Dr Keelan showed me how to engage with the whole life of the person in such an intelligent and kind way. And I was so fortunate to work with Dr Clare, who was generous in his teachings and insights and open about psychotherapy. He also saw art, poetry and literature all of value to working with mental health.” (Irish Times) >

Professional and local interests had stake in keeping aslyums, says major study

Medical professionals and local communities protecting their economic interests played a major role in the incarceration of tens of thousands of people in asylums, according to a study into what’s depicted as the forgotten scandal of Ireland’s institutional past. Its author, Dr Damien Brennan, said there were strong parallels between the operation of Ireland’s mental hospitals and the Magdalene laundries but the former “can’t be blamed on the church; it was a State-run project. We did it as communities, as societies”. In his book Irish Insanity: 1800-2000, the culmination of 10 years of research launched in Dublin last night, he seeks to explain why Ireland in the 1950s had the world’s highest rate of mental hospital residency. (Times) >

After the Asylum: Mags Kelly: The psychiatric system that I went to for help just kept pumping me up with tablet after tablet

“The psychiatric system that I went to for help just kept pumping me up with tablet after tablet – up to 50 or 60 a day at one point,” Mags says. “. . . I was getting injections as well – I never knew what they were – and couldn’t get out of bed for days afterwards . . . I’d be asking people what day of the week it was. I didn’t know. I’d be drooling from the mouth.”

There were inpatient stays in mental hospitals, too. So many now that she can’t remember. Back on the street, she used crack, heroin or alcohol to ease the pain. Many of those she met on the streets died through overdoses, medical complications, suicide or other reasons.

Just over a year ago, Mags suffered a brutal assault. She could feel her life slipping through her fingers as she lost several pints of blood. She recovered, but she wasn’t sure if she could survive another setback. By now she was living in a homeless shelter in Cork.

When she was told about Slí Eile, a community therapeutic centre in the countryside, she was skeptical at first. “It sounded like the kind of place that was full of nuns,” she says. “But another girl – a previous tenant here – told me, ‘My neighbours were the bird; you’ll be safe and get your life sorted out’.” (Times) >

After the Asylum: Rory Doody: ‘I loved the severe physical pain. It was better than the mental pain’

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Pat Bracken says his profession needs to change. He says psychiatrists still have huge powers – and responsibilities – under the terms of the Mental Health Act. A psychiatrist has the power to determine what treatment will be used, how it will be used and its duration.

There are many people who carry hurt and suffering from past experiences in asylums or psychiatric hospitals
The old granite and red-brick buildings are closing. But shutting the door on a culture which often ignored the voice of patients isn’t necessarily as easy.

“While many improvements have been made in recent years, the need for a more humane, person-focused service is still the consistent message from the many people we consult across the country,” says Orla Barry, director of the campaign group Mental Health Reform.

“Although many people have positive experiences of mental healthcare, we regularly hear about those who feel they cannot get their voice heard within mental health services and are not given the choices they should have over their treatment.” (Irish Times) >

How I survived my dark night of the soul

When I was discharged, I had a couple of outpatient appointments. There was no explanation of my diagnosis, which was given to me at the end of one of these appointments. Neither was there any discussion of early warning symptoms for future management of my health.

In 2004, I suffered a far more severe episode, while living in the UK. I became totally withdrawn and I was catatonic.

I had stopped eating and drinking and became seriously unwell. I had ECT treatment as I didn’t respond to medication and took some time out upon discharge. (Irish Times) >

Continue reading “How I survived my dark night of the soul”

Artist Gemma Anderson on her interest in drawing portraits of patients and doctors of psychiatry

Gemma Anderson: ‘I had become especially interested in working on portraits of psychiatric patients, as my grandmother had spent a period in a psychiatric hospital in 2004. Deeply aware of how her identity was diminished by the language of the medical institution, I witnessed how its vocabulary failed to express the history and story of the individual I loved and knew so well.’ (>>>>)Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 13.38.22

From Dr Tim McInery’s essay about the project: “Forensic psychiatry is that part of medicine which provides care and assessment of the mentally disordered offender. Forensic psychiatry has a long history in the U.K. arising out of Bedlam Hospital over 150 years ago. Early psychiatry was often pre-occupied with the appearance of individuals as a key to their morale and psychic inner world. This science of physiognomy manifested itself in the analysis of the facial structure. The measuring of eyes, nose and lips was an indicator of the internal mental pathology. When Broadmoor Hospital opened in the 1880s patients were photographed on admission. Their facial characteristics, demeanour and affect was believed to be a causative factor in their illness rather than a representation of the distress they might be experiencing.”