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Telling Admissions 1

This new thread, to which we intend to post in alternate months throughout 2013, is devoted to first-hand accounts of what it was like to have been admitted to a psychiatric hospital (‘sectioned’) under the UK Mental Health Act in the twenty years between 1975 and 1995. Many such accounts have been written, some by people in the public eye, others not. Their willingness to have details of their contact with mental health services in the public domain forms a powerful counter-weight to the secrecy, shame and stigma with which issues of mental ill-health are usually treated. This thread will highlight in turn a poet, a pop singer, an occupational therapist, a political advisor, a psychiatrist and an actor, all of whom have ‘gone public’ with their stories. It has been inspired by the remarks published on this blog in 2011 of someone who regarded her admission to Bethlem as “harder” and “a greater achievement…than getting into university”.

The first story, which we reproduce here without further comment, is that of the poet James Bellamy, who in the mid-1990s “was…sectioned at the age of 21 after nearly two years without treatment” for psychotic symptoms.

“When the psychiatrist and social worker arrived to take me away I was terrified and refused to co-operate. The fear that this day would come had haunted me for months, so I ran out of the house and managed to evade them. Two days later, they returned with two policemen and I remember being put in handcuffs, shut in a meat wagon and taken to the Maudsley Hospital. As I was carried away I was screaming, ‘What’s going to happen to me?’ and ‘What about my poetry?’ One of the reasons I shied away from treatment for so long is because I was scared I’d be shut away forever. Far from being locked away for good, I was told early on I would only be in hospital for a matter of weeks. This helped reassure me and start to trust the Maudsley, which I still do to this day.”1